The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) oversees regulated utilities operating in the State of Maine. The PUC reviews requests and concerns in multiple ways. Consumers can bring questions to the Consumer Assistance and Safety Division (CASD) for investigation or can file a 10-person complaint, which allows 10 utility account holders to bring a concern before the PUC. Residents are also able to participate in ongoing cases before the Commission. If you are interested in participating in a case at the Public Utilities Commission, you have several options regarding your involvement which are detailed below.
Filing a public comment – Public comment is welcome in any case taking place at the Commission. Written comments are included in the case file and considered by the Hearing Examiners and Commissioners prior to issuing their ruling in a case. However, facts included in these comments cannot be included in the ruling as they are not provided as sworn testimony. You can submit your public comment to the Commission online using the Commission’s Case Management System (CMS). There are How-To Guides below to walk you through the CMS system.
Speaking at a public witness hearing – In a small number of cases, the Commission will hold a public witness hearing in order to allow customers of a utility the opportunity to comment on the case. A notice of the hearing is required to be published in a state-wide newspaper seven days prior to the event. At the hearing, individuals have the choice to provide testimony under oath or not. However, statements made that are not under oath will not become as evidence in the record, and therefore cannot be considered in the final ruling. For additional information on public witness hearings, please visit our Public Hearings page.
Joining the case notification list – If a case is of interest and you would like to be informed about developments in the case as it progresses, you can join the case notification list (which is part of the CMS system). In order to join the notification list, you will need to create an account in CMS and subscribe to the specific case. There are How-To Guides below to walk you through this process. This system sends an email alert each time a new document is added to the case file.
Becoming an active party – This level of participation is the most involved and the most beneficial to someone who has a significant interest in the outcome of a case. To be an official participant (i.e., a “party”) in the case, you will need to file a petition to intervene at the Commission, using the docket number of the case. Active parties can submit data requests, ask questions at hearings or technical conferences and submit testimony and evidence in the case. For an example, please download our template Petition to Intervene (Word). There is a sample case process detailed below to help guide you through the process.
This explanation is intended to help you decide your level of participation, but for additional details please read our guide entitled Ways to Participate at the Commission (PDF). Below we further detail the common steps in a case and provide guidance on how to participate. If you have unanswered questions, please don't hesitate to call us at 624-3687.
Sample PUC Case Process
The following is a sample case process. Your individual case may be shorter or longer than what is shown below.
For complete Rules of Practice and Procedure at the Public Utilities Commission, please download Chapter 110 (PDF).
Petition with Direct Testimony
Cases at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) typically start when someone (usually a utility) files a petition asking the PUC to do something. The petition usually includes Direct Testimony explaining why the Commission should grant the request. This is the first evidence in a case. For example, in a rate case, the utility’s direct testimony will describe each of the increased costs that it believes justify a rate increase.
Notice of Proceeding
When a petition is filed, the Commission assigns the case a docket number and the Commission Staff, called Examiners, who will oversee the case. The Hearing Examiner will then issue a Notice of Proceeding, which describes the proceeding, invites interested parties to participate in the case by intervening by a certain date, and sets a date for an Initial Case Conference.
In order to submit testimony, question witnesses, or make an argument in a case, you must intervene. The PUC's procedural rules allow "[a]ny person that is or may be . . . substantially and directly affected by the proceeding" to intervene. In this rule, "person" can mean an individual, corporation, or another group. In a rate case, for example, any ratepayer who takes service from the utility can become a party. To intervene, you must file a "Petition to Intervene" describing your relation to the case or utility, how you will be affected by the petition, and requesting to become a party.
The Examiners will hold an Initial Case Conference on the date set in the Notice of Proceeding. Here, the Examiners will rule on requests for intervention and establish a schedule for some or all of the case.
Data requests are written questions that all parties to the case have a right to ask any other party. These questions must be related to the issues in the case. At the Case Conference, the Hearing Examiner will typically set a timeline for parties to file data requests related to the Direct Testimony, and a deadline for the petitioner to submit answers (called data responses) to those questions.
A technical conference is an opportunity to ask questions of the petitioner’s witnesses in person. As with all case proceedings, the questions and answers provided during the conference are written down and this transcript becomes part of the evidence in the case.
While the Commission Staff investigates the facts and issues outlined in the initial filing and the Direct Testimony, the parties who have intervened may have an opportunity to present evidence in support of their position. Those intervenors may hire experts to prepare this testimony, which is filed as intervenor testimony. Other parties will then have a chance to submit data requests and ask questions at a technical conference.
After reviewing and analyzing everything submitted in the case up to that point, the Commission Staff issue a recommendation, called the Bench Analysis, describing their position on the petition.
The filing party, and in some cases the intervenors, may then submit written testimony that responds to Intervenor Testimony and the Bench Analysis. This testimony is an opportunity for the filing party to provide more information, and is usually followed by the opportunity for more data requests and a technical conference.
Hearings are formal conferences held before the Commissioners and conducted by Commission Staff. In most cases this is the first and only opportunity for a party to present their witnesses directly to the Commissioners who will be making the decision, rather than Commission Staff. A hearing is held after all evidence and testimony has been submitted to form the “record” of the case, which contains all the information the Commission will use to make its decision. At the hearing, parties and their experts may ask one another questions based on what is in that record. Staff and the Commissioners may also ask the parties questions in order to better understand the case. All statements made by parties and their experts must be made under oath. In some cases, hearings are required by law, and in others parties may be request a hearing, though they are usually not held in routine or uncontested cases.
After the Hearing, parties file written briefs that summarize their arguments about what the Commission should do and the supporting evidence, as well as respond to the opposing partys’ arguments.
After the parties submit their briefs, the Hearing Examiners prepare an Examiner’s Report that contains the findings Staff has made based on the record and recommends how the Commissioners should resolve the case. Often, this Report is in the form of a draft Commission Order.
Parties may file Exceptions describing their objections to the findings and recommended decision in the Examiners’ Report. The Commissioners will consider any exceptions, together with the examiners’ report, in making a final decision on a case.
At the conclusion of a case, the Commissioners will conduct a public deliberation. The date and time of this session will be shared in advance through the Commission’s case management system and posted to its website. At the deliberations the Commissioners will each present their decision in the case and describe their reasons for their decision, and in some cases discuss the case with each other. A majority vote of the three Commissioners will prevail. Although the sessions are public, there is no opportunity for public comment. These sessions are also streamed by live video available through the Commission’s website.
After the Commissioners have held public deliberations, the Commission will issue a written Order, which sets forth the Commission’s decision, including its finding of facts, the arguments and comments of the parties, and the Commissioners’ reasoning for their decision(s). The Order has the force of law, meaning that the parties must comply with the Commission’s decision. The Order will also include instructions on how to file an appeal of the Order.
Motion for Reconsideration
Prior to filing an appeal of a Commission decision, a party to the proceeding may file a motion asking for the Commission to reconsider its decision. In this motion, the party must explain why they are submitting the request and what they want the Commission to do, such as changing or clarifying part of the decision. This request must be filed within 20 days from the date that the Commission issues the Order. If the Commission decides to reconsider its decision, it will do so within 20 days. If the Commission does not act on that motion within 20 days from the date it was filed, the motion will be considered to be denied.
Appeal to Supreme Court
If the Commission denies a Motion for Reconsideration (or if the parties choose not to request reconsideration), any party may appeal the Commission’s decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which is referred to as the “Law Court.” A party must file an appeal no later than 21 days from the date of the original decision or from the date of the denial of the motion for reconsideration. The Law Court’s rule describing how to file an appeal are available here.
- Ways to participate at the Commission (PDF)
- File a public comment (PDF)
- Register for CMS (PDF)
- Subscribe to a case (PDF)
- File a petition to intervene (PDF)
- File comments in a case docket (PDF)
- File data requests (PDF)
- File for reconsideration or appeal (PDF)