The actions of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) affect the lives of nearly every Colorado citizen in one way or another. Each year the PUC oversees utilities generating billions of dollars in annual jurisdictional utility revenues in Colorado.
Article XXV of the Colorado Constitution declares that the regulation of public utilities is the province of the General Assembly and that unless that body should otherwise designate, the PUC is mandated with the authority to provide this regulation. Title 40, Colorado Revised Statutes, provides legislative policy direction to the PUC as to how utility regulation is to be conducted in Colorado. The PUC derives its authority wholly from constitutional and statutory provisions.
The statutes also mandate that the PUC must first give paramount consideration to the public interest. This requires constant attention to achieve the appropriate balance between the needs of Colorado customers for safe and reliable utility services at reasonable rates and the needs of utility service providers to earn a reasonable profit and to sustain a reliable utility infrastructure throughout Colorado.
The General Assembly requires that the PUC conduct its business in two ways:
- QUASI-LEGISLATIVE: Generally, the Quasi-Legislative proceedings involve rulemaking and do not require stakeholders to be represented by an attorney in order to participate and have input into the process.
- QUASI-JUDICIAL: The Quasi-Judicial proceedings are litigated proceedings, where the formal administrative law process is used to provide appropriate "due process" protections to affected parties. These proceedings must be conducted "on the record" where representation by an attorney is often necessary. The proceedings may be adversarial and contentious, and often involve multiple parties. The scope and complexity of issues involved in the proceeding typically determine how long the proceeding will last and the cost. Some proceedings, such as routine transportation issues, may be resolved in less than a month. Others, such as complex rate proceedings to determine base rates for gas and electric service, may take months to resolve.
In both cases, the Colorado Sunshine Law requires that all of the business of the PUC be conducted in public, with appropriate notice to allow interested individuals to observe and participate in the proceedings. The PUC is required to comply with statutory guidelines for timely completion of proceedings.