Kentucky Public Service Commission

Kentucky utility regulators understaffed, under-resourced

Nov 18, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Public Service Commission Chairman Kent Chandler told state lawmakers Wednesday the utility regulatory agency doesn’t have the staff or resources to manage the current workload — let alone the work expected from a windfall of federal funding for infrastructure projects. 

It’s hard to tell from the name, but the Public Service Commission is the state agency in charge of regulating most utilities, including electricity, gas, some water and even a little bit of telecommunications. 

Chandler’s frank admission came in response to a question from Republican state Rep. Suzanne Miles of Owensboro about whether the Public Service Commission had adequate staffing.  

“No,” Chandler said during the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources & Energy. “I don’t mean to be flippant, Representative Miles, but I just want to be honest. We do not.”

BGMU

All utilities regulated by the Kentucky Public Service Commission are being ordered to temporarily suspend disconnections for non-payment to provide some relief to customers affected by the coronavirus. 

Utilities are also being told to suspend late payment fees for at least 30 days.  The order states that disconnections pose a risk of COVID-19 transmission to utility employees and are a waste of utility resources at a time when there is a "pressing need to ensure continuity, and thus adequacy, of service."

Bowling Green Municipal Utilities isn’t under the jurisdiction of the PSC, but is voluntarily halting disconnections through the end of the month, although late fees will still accrue.  Christie Twyman, Customer Relations and Communications Manager at BGMU, says its decision is mostly aimed at relieving financial stress.

Ryan Van Velzer

Amid last year’s fight over net-metering legislation, a lobbyist working on behalf of utilities asked the regulatory agency that oversees utilities to weigh-in with a letter to lawmakers.

Gwen Pinson, the executive director of the Kentucky Public Service Commission, wrote back two hours later:

“Jason, The Commissioners and I are going to discuss your request this afternoon. So I will be in touch thereafter,” wrote Pinson.


Ryan Van Velzer

Kentucky utility regulators have opened a review into the financial assistance programs that help low-income families pay their gas, water and electric bills.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission is concerned some programs are inconsistently distributing funding meant to help impoverished families.

Utilities offer home energy assistance to help make sure low-income families can keep their heat on in the winter and A/C on in the summer.

Among early findings, the commission discovered varying customer requirements and eligibility as well as inconsistent oversight, administrative costs and financial accountability, according to a news release.

 


Ryan Van Velzer

Coal lobbyists have enlisted the help of Kentucky state utility regulators in asking federal officials to weigh in on a Trump administration plan to bail out coal-fired power plants.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has joined five other states in writing letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of a campaign orchestrated by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The letters were first reported by Bloomberg.