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The Public Advocate Office's primary responsibility is to represent the interests of Maine residential users of utility service. Our attorneys advocate for rates, services and practices to benefit residential customers in regulatory and court proceedings. Most of our work takes place in proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Our Office also intervenes in cases before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency that oversees wholesale electricity markets, interstate electricity transmission and interstate gas transportation. We are also active as a consumer representative in the stakeholder process at ISO New England, the regional electric transmission grid operator.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate communications by radio, TV, wire, satellite and cable. The agency also administers the Lifeline LinkUp program for telephone assistance and the Universal Service Fund (USF) and jointly administers the Do Not Call Registry for consumers who want to avoid telemarketing calls. Most recently, as a result of stimulus legislation, the FCC has been charged with implementing a Broadband Initiative to accelerate broadband deployment throughout the country. As an active member of National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA), the Maine Public Advocate has participated at the FCC on behalf of Maine telephone consumers through the submission of comments by NASUCA in numerous FCC dockets.
35-A M.R.S.A. Section 1702 is the statute that authorizes the Public Advocate Office to represent the interest of ratepayers within the jurisdiction of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The Public Advocate, under this statute can request the PUC to initiate a proceeding, if necessary, to protect the interest of Maine consumers.
Within this statute the Office seeks to perform this advocacy role by:
- Arguing for the lowest feasible level of rates and for the delay of increases when supported by adequate evidence, consistent with a high level of service quality.
- Implementing policy set by the PUC, the Governor and the Legislature.
- Maintaining frequent and consistent contact with ratepayer organizations, individual consumers and their representatives in order to better identify emerging problems affecting service quality for utility customers.
- Pursuing in federal agency proceedings, regional regulators like ISO-New England, and state and Federal courts each of these objectives in order to protect the interests of Maine ratepayers.
- Promote and protect the interest of ratepayers before the legislature, in regional and national forums.
- Enlighten ratepayers on consumer-owned transmission and distribution matters.
The OPA is a member of the National Association of State Utilities Consumer Advocates (NASUCA), an association of 42 consumer advocates in 40 states and the District of Columbia which works with its members to share information and ideas that enables our agency to stay on top of developments in the regulation of utility service providers. We have staff members serving on NASUCA's Consumer Protection, Telecommunications and Electricity Committees.