Ratepayers vs. Utilities – Regulatory Structure Must Change

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Bigger Pie Forum | Ratepayers vs. Utilities – Regulatory Structure Must Change | BPF
 
Public policy consultant Erik Randolph says that the Mississippi Public Service Commission should designate public utilities’ information to be held confidential/proprietary.  The process should explicitly require the utilities to request protective orders of confidentiality from the Commission.  Currently, the utilities decide what will be filed as confidential.
Right now if an outsider challenges the confidential treatment of information, a utility can ask a judge to allow them to keep it confidential.  Intervenors in the proceeding, or parties outside the proceedings such as journalist, now must go to court to compel the utility to reveal the documents, a process that takes years and can often be too late to impact critical proceedings.
An example of this is the battle by the Bigger Pie Forum to reveal natural gas forecasts marked confidential by Mississippi Power in the battle over the $7.5 billion Kemper Project clean coal power plant.  It took Bigger Pie Forum two and a half years in a legal battle that extended past the re-certification proceedings in April 2012.  Mississippi Power went to the courts to keep the forecasts confidential without the PSC ruling on the merits.
Those forecasts showed that natural gas price forecasts used to justify constructing a synthesis gas-fueled plant were overly optimistic on high prices for the foreseeable future and were already rendered obsolete by the fracking revolution.
To use a football term, this running out the clock can allow the state’s two investor-owned utilities to get the results they seek from regulators even if the evidence isn’t on their side.  When the public and intervenors can’t view critical evidence in a timely manner, decisions can be made that can be harmful to ratepayers.  The Bigger Pie Forum wants the rule changed to mandate the commission to be

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