Hawaiian Bill Would Compensate PUC Intervenors

A bill (HB805) proposed on January 21 by Representative Chris Lee (D-Kailua-Waimanalo) at the Hawaii State Legislature would create a program for organizations to get paid for taking part in regulatory reviews that the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission conducts, according to a January 30 report by Pacific Business News.

The measure, would establish an intervenor compensation program to provide organizations that make substantial contributions to the regulatory proceedings with compensation. The caveat is that the proceeding must produce a positive result or savings for consumers, the local news outlet said.

The bill outlines the problem that it is meant to solve: Regulated companies and utilities that take part in PUC reviews tend to have significant resources to advocate for their interests, but few organizations or individuals have a similar capacity to advocate on behalf of the people.

While Hawaii’s Consumer Advocate has a broad mission and is directed to act on behalf of individual consumers, the Consumer Advocate must also represent the interests of large industrial consumers and commercial entities. This can potentially limit  advocacy on behalf of individual consumers when their interests conflict with that of larger entities,” the measure notes.

The Hawaii program would be modeled after a similar program adopted in California where it awarded $25.5 million from 2008 to 2012 for 370 claims intervenors submitted.

There are currently seven states that allow intervenors to receive reimbursement for their costs when they make a substantial contribution to a PUC proceeding, producing a clear benefit for consumers, according to the bill.

As a result of the legislation, an Intervenor Compensation Special Fund would be established within the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The state would appropriate a sum of $100,000 for this 2017-2018 fiscal year, and the same sum “or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2018-2019.

Lee is chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

The act would take effect, if approved, on July 1.

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