Established – 1975
Statutory authority – CGS Sec. 16-2a
Central office – Ten Franklin Square,
New Britain, CT 06051
Average number of full-time employees – 12
Recurring operating expenses - $1,809,766
Capital expenditures - $0
The mission of the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) is to represent customers of Connecticut’s five regulated utilities – electric, gas, water, telephone, and to some extent, cable television – primarily in matters that go before the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC), and to advocate that they receive the lowest utility rates possible commensurate with the highest level of utility services. This is accomplished mainly through OCC’s participation on behalf of all consumer interests, with regard to public utility matters, in regulatory or judicial proceedings, federal or state, affecting such interest.
OCC continues its effective representation of the ratepayer in traditional litigation at the DPUC by development of policy and legal positions by the Consumer Counsel in consultation with staff and by thorough preparation of its cases including comprehensive analysis of the evidence filed by other parties or intervenors, cross-examination of utility witnesses, presentation of its own evidence through senior staff or outside experts and constant honing of its oral and written skills. This year at the DPUC, OCC had many successful cases particularly the CL&P Rate Case and several successful appeals of cases at the Superior Court including appeals of the Yankee Gas Rate Case and the United Illuminating Rate Case. Also of note, one of two possible cases will be heard at the Connecticut Supreme Court during which OCC will seek clarification on several important issues to utility ratepayers and utility practitioners. OCC also was involved in several settlements which brought benefits to ratepayers as well as the utility and eliminated the need for protracted and costly litigation whose outcome was uncertain.
On the telephone front, the OCC scored a victory at the Connecticut Supreme Court in a case directly protecting consumers from an unscrupulous pay phone provider; argued at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this year in a case to promote competition for all forms of telecommunications (telephone, cable TV, and Internet service); and issued comments, which will soon be available on our website, on the dismal status of telecommunications competition in this state, advocating the steps needed to bring competition to this market.
In terms of cable TV, which is narrowly regulated by the DPUC under state law (e.g., rates are regulated by the FCC under federal law), in addition to assuring that Adelphia customers are not negatively impacted by the legal and financial troubles affecting the company due to the fraud of its corporate officers, the OCC is preparing for several franchise renewal challenges expected later this year affecting several providers.
OCC also serves on various boards which affect ratepayer issues such as the Consumer Education Advisory Council. OCC is chair of this Board that advises the DPUC on the implementation of the legislative mandate to educate electric consumers about the changes in the electric industry in Connecticut. This year and last, the Board worked closely with DPUC to enhance its electric outreach website, Wattsnewct.com, for easier navigation and “one stop shopping” for electric restructuring information. OCC also is an active member of the Energy Conservation Management Board which is an advisory board assisting the utility administrators of the ratepayer funded Conservation Fund. Another Board membership of note is our role as a member of the newly reconstituted Connecticut Energy Advisory Board (“CEAB”). This Board, created by statute last year, is charged with developing the state’s annual energy plan, developing preferential criteria for energy projects and has the power to initiate requests for proposal for energy projects to address the state’s needs, short or long-term, on a more sustainable, strategic basis. CEAB will work closely with ISO-NE and the Connecticut Siting Council which are the agencies that must approve aspects of these types of projects.
Last year, OCC met its responsibilities with success despite the budget impacts with the able assistance of an experienced staff and outside experts as necessary and we were extremely fortunate to have been able to fill one of our four vacancies with a much needed litigation attorney. We look for continued good results for utility consumers in the year ahead.
Information Reported as Required by State Statute
The OCC is an equal opportunity employer committed to the letter and the spirit of affirmative action.