The chairman of the House Committee on Public Transportation and Communications, Rep. Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero, disclosed plans to offer legislation that would exclude the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. from the oversight of the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission.
To do this, Public Law 15-35 will need to be amended. This law was enacted in 2006 mandating the CPUC to regulate electric, water, wastewater, telecommunications, and cable television companies in the CNMI.
Deleon Guerrero said the reinstatement of the CUC governing board gives it the ultimate power to have full oversight on CUC matters, including setting up rates and others.
Under the current setup, CUC can only adjust its rates if approved by the CPUC.
“For me, it’s a clear duplication of responsibility. So I am looking at maybe repealing the PUC Act and remove CUC from the commission’s regulatory oversight. As a governing body, the CUC board can decide if there’s a need for rate increases and other purpose,” explained the lawmaker.
Keeping CUC under CPUC’s oversight not only duplicates functions of the utilities board but would also continue to cost ratepayers, he said.
Under the law, an entity like CUC shoulders all expenses in any rate petition it files with the CPUC. These expenditures include, among others, fees assessed by CPUC consultants, hearing examiner, and related expenses.
While this desired change in the CPUC Act has yet to happen, Deleon Guerrero believes that the utilities commission should stop tapping the services of its consultant and hearing examiner. The hiring of consultants for CPUC as well as fees it assesses is authorized in the CPUC Act.
“CPUC members were appointed to the position based on their qualifications, education, and experience. Why would they need to hire a consultant or hearing examiner when they themselves have the capability to do it? It’s costing [our ratepayers] so much and for me that’s not fair,” he told Saipan Tribune.
That is why trainings and workshops for CPUC members are encouraged and required, he added.
Based on CUC records CPUC’s current consultant, Georgetown Consulting Services, was paid over $1.626 million since it started reviewing CUC’s rate cases from 2009 to 2014.
“There are trainings and workshops set up for PUC members to redefine and recertify their potentials. In my opinion, they should do the assessment [of rate cases] because they meet the prerequisite to become commission members,” he said.