Walker Signs Rate Settlement Bill Backed by Utilities

February 2, 2018

A measure backed mostly by utilities that would help them resolve electric and natural gas rate disputes was signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The measure, Assembly Bill 532, was signed by Walker on Wednesday after it was approved on near party-line votes in the GOP-controlled Assembly and Senate.

The new law lets utilities reach rate settlements with groups of homeowners or businesses and then send the settlements on to the state Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates utilities, for final approval. The PSC would be able to make changes or impose conditions in the settlements.

Parties that do not agree to settlements would have 30 days to lodge disputes and pitch changes to the PSC.

The state’s utility watchdog, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), said in testimony on the bill that the settlement process favors utilities in rate disputes. The process does not require utilities to exchange information with non-settling parties or respond to requests for information. In addition, 30 days is not enough time for non-settling parties, or CUB, to evaluate and respond to proposed settlements. The process also shifts the burden of proof from utilities to show why rate settlements should be approved and saddles non-settling parties to show why rate settlements should not be adopted.

The measure was mostly backed by utilities and American Transmission Co., which builds the state’s high-voltage transmission lines. The utility industry and American Transmission contributed about $2.1 million between January 2010 and June 2017 to legislative and statewide candidates, including about $881,500 to Republican legislators. The top recipients of these individual, political action committee, and corporate contributions were:

Walker, about $483,600

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, about $254,200

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $225,000