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Michigan Public Service Commission
How does this matter come to MAHS?
Cases are referred to MAHS from the Michigan Public Service Commission. Created by 1939 PA 3, the Michigan Public Service Commission has three Commissioners, each appointed by the Governor with staggered six-year terms, and a staff of approximately 125 employees. The Michigan Public Service Commission has regulatory responsibilities under numerous statues governing investor-owned electric and natural gas public utilities, gas and electric cooperatives, telecommunications services, oil and gas pipelines, and electric transmission lines. Cases referred to MAHS are typically initiated by an application from a natural gas or electric utility, by a customer complaint involving natural gas, electric, or telecommunications service, or on the Commission’s own motion to investigate a matter of concern.
What types of hearings does MAHS hold on this subject area?
Michigan Public Service Commission cases referred to MAHS are typically “contested cases,” which are evidentiary hearings conducted under the Michigan Administrative Procedures Act and MAHS rules of practice and procedure specific to the MPSC. These contested cases include:
- The regulation of investor-owned gas and electric utilities, including the following case types:
- General rate cases under 1939 PA 3, as amended;
- Annual plan and reconciliation cases under 1982 PA 304, providing principally for the recovery of natural gas and transportation costs for gas utilities and for the recovery of fuel and purchased power costs for electric utilities;
- Reviews of utility plans to obtain renewable energy and implement energy optimization programs under 2008 PA 295;
- Consideration of certificates of necessity for significant construction or new investment under 2008 PA 286;
- Reviews of certain mergers, acquisitions, and asset sales under 2008 PA 286;
- Certificates of public convenience and necessity to provide certain utility services under 1929 Act 69;
- Complaint cases including consumer billing disputes, disputes between utilities and competing “choice” providers, and other disputes; and
- Commission-initiated investigations arising under statutes or rules administered by the Commission.
- The regulation of certain electric cooperatives to the extent they are not exempt from regulation under 2008 PA 167, in case types similar to those for investor-owned utilities.
- The Commission’s jurisdiction over telecommunications providers under a combination of state and federal statutes including the Michigan Telecommunications Act, 1991 PA 179, and the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 USC § 151 et seq. Such cases may be initiated by the Commission, by a consumer, or by one or more telecommunications providers.
In addition, the ALJs handle certain non-evidentiary public hearings the Commission may initiate to give members of the public the opportunity to comment on a matter of public importance such as a proposed pipeline, or proposed administrative rules. The ALJs also may serve as a mediator of certain telecommunications-related disputes, issuing recommended resolutions of the disputes following specific statues and Commission rules, and may serve on an arbitration panel with Michigan Public Service Commission staff members to address certain interconnection disputes.
What authority does MAHS have in this process?
MAHS ALJs handle contested cases from the time the Commission issues a notice of hearing, through the preparation of a proposed decision for the Commission. The Michigan Public Service Commission issues final orders in all its cases. The ALJs have the responsibility to set schedules and provide for the orderly conduct of the proceedings. Key steps in these contested cases include:
- The Prehearing Conference: At the prehearing conference, the ALJ considers petitions to intervene, sets a schedule for the remainder of the proceeding, provides for discovery, and may provide an opportunity for members of the public to make comments.
- Motion Hearings: When a party seeks a ruling from the ALJ on matters not resolved at the prehearing, such as a discovery dispute, a protective order, a limit on the scope of the proceeding, or a revision to the schedule, motion hearings are held to allow the parties to present oral argument in addition to any written arguments they have submitted. The ALJ may issue an oral or written ruling on the motion.
- Evidentiary Hearings: While testimony in most Commission cases is prefiled written testimony, evidentiary hearings are held to bind the testimony into the official record (transcript), to allow parties to cross-examine the witnesses submitting written testimony, and to consider the admission of other evidence in the form of exhibits. Consumer complaints are generally scheduled for evidentiary hearings without prefiled written testimony.
- Proposal for Decision: The ALJs typically prepare written Proposals for Decision (PFDs) that analyze the evidentiary record in light of arguments presented in briefs and reply briefs submitted by the parties, and contain both findings of fact and conclusions of law. Because the Commission issues the final decisions in all of its cases, a PFD also provides deadlines for the parties to file their objections to the PFD with the Commission (referred to as “Exceptions”) and to reply to any objections that are filed.
In handling mediations and arbitrations, the ALJs follow the provisions of administrative rules promulgated by the MPSC and MAHS, R 484.701 et seq.
MAHS ALJs handling Michigan Public Service Commission cases can be reached at 517-284-8130.
Q: Where can I find additional information on line about Michigan Public Service Commission cases?
A: Additional information is available on the Michigan Public Service Commission’s website, which contains prior Commission orders, PFDs issued by the ALJs, notices of hearing, Commission meeting agendas and minutes, key statutes and administrative rules, and an electronic docket containing the record for most Commission cases. Prior orders, PFDs, notices, statutes and rules are available through the “Documents Library” tab; the electronic docket is available through the “E-Docket” tab, by case number. The Michigan Public Service Commission also provides consumer information on its website, including utility rates and terms and conditions of service, and information on filing a complaint.
Q: Where can I find the rules that apply to these matters?
A: The rules of practice and procedure that apply to Michigan Public Service Commission cases can be found here at pages 1-18 and 45-68: http://w3.lara.state.mi.us/orrsearch/1297_2013-100LR_AdminCode.pdf
The rules applicable to mediations and arbitrations can be found here: http://w3.lara.state.mi.us/orrsearch/108_25_AdminCode.pdf