Docket Number: U-210595
New policy statement clarifies state law
LACEY, Wash. - State regulators recently issued guidance on how electric and natural gas utilities should provide financial assistance to groups wishing to participate in UTC proceedings on behalf of customers.
This funding will support organizations that advocate on behalf of utility customers in UTC proceedings and encourage participation by organizations supporting vulnerable and highly impacted communities that may not have participated in UTC proceedings in the past.
The new policy statement outlines:
- the total amount of funding that utilities may provide during the first year of the program,
- how utilities will prioritize vulnerable populations and highly impacted communities, and
- how utilities should recover that funding through customer rates.
In the first year of the program, each utility will cap its program at 0.1% of its annual gross intrastate revenue, but provide no more than $300,000 in funding overall, and set aside at least one-third of funds for organizations representing vulnerable and highly impacted communities.
All organizations may use these funds for consulting and legal fees. Organizations serving these prioritized communities may also use these funds for a variety of costs, including training, technical assistance, and outreach. Organizations cannot use these funds for overhead expenses, lobbying, or filing formal complaints.
Funding will be available to organizations for proceedings beginning now through Dec. 31, 2022. The UTC will evaluate the program at the end of the first year to decide whether to update this guidance for future years.
The UTC will evaluate all funding requests to ensure utilities distribute funds equitably and that organizations use the funds in the public interest.
The UTC will continue to develop guidelines and evaluate the effectiveness of this support by gathering feedback from organizations participating in the program. The UTC will provide assistance to organizations wishing to learn how to participate in UTC proceedings.
In 2021, the Washington Legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5295, which requires gas or electrical companies to enter into funding agreements with organizations that represent broad customer interests in regulatory proceedings before the commission. The law requires the commission and utilities to prioritize funding for organizations representing vulnerable populations or highly impacted communities.
This law complements the Clean Energy Transformation Act of 2019, which recognized the need to consider equity in energy regulation.
The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
Editor's note: the final policy statement is available in docket U-210595.