The Commission conducts much of its official business through formal legal cases, including rate adjustments, service quality, the prudence of proposed investments, and utility practices. Cases are divided by issue area: Electric, Gas and Gas Safety, Communications (Telephone), Consumer Assistance Division Appeals, Damage Prevention (Dig Safe), and Water.
Types of Cases
There are several types of cases that come before the Commission as described below.
- Adjudicatory Proceeding: Most cases involving individual utilities are adjudicatory cases, which are very similar to litigation in a court case. The Maine Administrative Procedure Act and the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure Chapter 110 provide formal guidelines on how such cases must be handled. Adjudicatory proceedings typically include pre-filed written testimony, a period of time for written discovery and technical conferences so parties can question witnesses, hearings before the Commissioners, briefs filed by the parties and finally a recommended decision by staff and an opportunity to comment on the recommendation. The Commissioners make a final decision based on the record developed in the case.
- Investigation: An investigation is typically initiated by the Commission to review an issue that involves one or more utilities. Investigations are adjudicatory proceedings.
- Inquiry: An inquiry is a less formal proceeding initiated by the Commission typically to gather information. The formal rules of adjudicatory proceedings do not apply. If after gathering information the Commission wishes to take an action, it may open an adjudicatory proceeding or rulemaking.
- Rulemaking: Rulemaking proceedings are conducted pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 M.R.S. §§ 8001-11008. The Commission seeks comment on a proposed rule or rulemaking amendments that have general applicability to more than one utility or entity. Rulemakings are less formal than adjudicatory proceedings.
Staff Role in Commission Cases
The Commission’s staff includes accountants, engineers, lawyers, financial analysts, consumer specialists, and administrative and support staff. Staff performs a myriad of duties to carry out the Commission’s regulatory responsibilities and other functions assigned by the Legislature, including holding auctions for standard offer electricity supply, soliciting bids for long-term electricity contracts, investigating green power options, and more.
In adjudicatory (also called “litigation”) proceedings, the staff act as advisors to the Commission. Staff attorneys manage the procedural aspects of a case, ensuring case record is fully developed, analyzed and presented.
In some cases, the parties try to resolve or settle their differences. During a settlement process , staff may participate in settlement discussions if all parties agree. Staff does not sign any settlement agreement (called a “stipulation”) which might result from the discussions. If a case is not settled, formal adjudicatory hearings and briefing occur after which staff issues a recommended decision called a Hearing Examiner’s Report. All parties may file comments (called “exceptions”) on this Report. The Commission (the three Commissioners) then publicly deliberates the matter and issues a decision. Any party can appeal a Commission decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Filing Written Comments
You may file written comments in any Commission case via the Commission’s Case Management System, CMS. Written comments in a case (or Docket) will be considered in any final Commission decision. These comments are part of the official case file. Comments that contain offensive language, including threats to Commission staff or profanity, will be deleted from the case/docket and will not be considered as part of the case. Confidential information should not be included in comments, as comments can be viewed by the general public, including the news media.
In Adjudicatory Proceedings, including investigations, public comments are read by Staff and Commissioners, but facts contained in these comments cannot be considered as evidence in a case unless they are sworn. Comments or letters can provide the basis for the Commission to further look into a matter or issue. Sworn testimony can be provided during a public witness hearing (see below) or by intervenors in cases.
If you do not have access to a computer, you may send your comment by US mail. Written comments that contain offensive language, including threats to Commission staff or profanity, will not be included in the case/docket and will not be considered as part of the case. If your letter is handwritten, please ensure that it is clearly written. Your filing must include the docket number, your name, address, phone number, and email. If you are mailing your letter via US mail, please send it to the attention of the Administrative Director, MPUC, 18 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
If you have any questions or need further assistance in filing your comments, please contact the Clerk of the Commission at (207) 287-3831. Please note that Commission staff cannot transcribe and submit your comments for you.
Ten Person Complaint
Ten or more persons may request that the Commission open a case by filing a petition with the Commission. The complaint must be regarding the utility’s rates, acts, practices or service which the petitioners believe to be unreasonable, insufficient, inadequate or discriminatory.
The complaint must clearly state full names and addresses of those who’ve signed the complaint and identify a “lead complainant”—a primary contact person designated the agent for the other complainants. The petition must clearly state the act about which the complaint is made and include reference wherever possible to the law, order or rule (and sections thereof) related to the claimed violation. The petition will be reviewed to determine whether the complaint has merit and, if so, the Commission will open an investigation.
Intervening in a Case
You may intervene in a Commission case. If you want to be an official participant in the case, you must file a petition for intervenor status via the CMS. Mandatory intervention is granted to persons or groups who may be substantially and directly affected by the proceeding and to any government agency. Discretionary intervention may be allowed for any other interested person or group after a determination of the Commission. Once intervenor status is granted, you will receive the official documents in the case by electronic mail. You will be automatically notified of events in the case such as hearings, meetings, and decision points and may participate in those events.
Following the Progress of a Case
You can receive information on a particular case in a number of ways.
- If you are an intervenor, you will receive e-mail notice of all materials filed in the case.
- You may place yourself on the notification list for any case. You will then receive electronic notice of all filings in the case.
- All documents filed in a case and transcripts of hearings are available to the public and may be viewed in the Content Management System (CMS).
How to Access the Commission's Content Management System (CMS)
The Commission's CMS is where all the publicly available documents in all Commission cases are filed. To access those documents, go to CMS. For more information how to use this new system, please view the Commission's training documents.
Public Witness Hearings
The Commission holds public witness hearings in selected proceedings to allow utility customers and interested parties to comment on a case. The Commission typically schedules public witness hearings in the service territory of the utility. Prior to a hearing, the Commission will publish a public notice in a statewide newspaper at least seven days before the scheduled hearing, will post on social media, and will notify the news media about the event.
The public witness hearing is held to allow the public to share their comments with the Commission. The Hearing Examiner—a Commission staff member in charge of the case/docket—will explain the format and process of the hearing before it begins. The Hearing Examiner will be available after the hearing to answer questions.
Speaking at a Public Witness Hearing
Sign-up sheets will be available for those who wish to speak. The Hearing Examiner will call the speakers’ names in order from the sign-in sheet. When your name is called, you can go to the microphone and you will be asked to state your name and whether you are providing “sworn” or “unsworn” testimony. Please keep comments brief, respectful, and free of profanity. Comments may be limited in time, depending on the number of potential witnesses, to allow time for each speaker.
- Sworn Testimony is part of the official record of the case and is reviewed by the Commission before it makes its final decision. The Hearing Examiner will administer an oath to those providing sworn testimony stating that what they are about to say is the truth.
- Unsworn Testimony will not be part of the official case record but is considered and can provide the basis for further Commission investigation. The best testimony is brief and to the point. Those testifying are asked to provide written copy of their comments.
In some Commission cases, the parties to the case hold settlement discussions during the same timeframe as the adjudicatory or litigation proceeding. Commission staff may participate in settlement discussions if all parties agree. Staff does not sign any settlement agreement which might result from the discussions. If these settlement discussions between parties result in an agreement (called a “stipulation”), that agreement is filed with the Commission by the parties.
There may be a hearing on the settlement agreement before the Commission. Whether there is a hearing or not, the Commission schedules a deliberation at which to review and decide whether or not to accept the stipulation. If the Commission approves the stipulation, the case is decided and there is no further adjudicatory process. If the stipulation is not approved, the Commission continues the litigation process to its final conclusion.
Commission Hearings and Deliberations
Members of the public are welcome to observe the Commission at work. At expert and evidentiary hearings, the Commissioners hear from and question parties to the case. At deliberations, the Commissioners publicly discuss and decide cases. Unlike a public witness hearing, you may only observe but not comment at these regular hearings and deliberations.
Deliberations are usually held at 10am on Tuesdays at the Commission offices, 26 Katherine Drive, Hallowell. In the event of a holiday, they are usually held on Wednesday. In some cases, deliberations will be held at another time, which will be reflected on the calendar. They are usually streamed live from the Commission website.
The calendar on the Commission website displays the time and date of deliberations. The agenda is also sent to all parties in advance and posted on the Commission’s homepage. You may also call the Commission office to request an agenda (207) 287-3831.
At the conclusion of an adjudicatory proceeding, the Commission makes a decision to approve, approve with conditions, or deny the request. Every decision is made in writing and is not final until the final Order is issued which includes the findings of fact sufficient to explain the basis for the decision to parties and the public. The Order is publicly available in the CMS.
Using Live Audio to Hear Commission Proceedings
Many Commission proceedings (hearings, deliberations) are streamed through the Commission website. You can view sessions live or watch recorded sessions later by clicking the Live Video link of the Commission website.
Review, Reconsider, Appeal of Commission Decision
Anyone who is a party to a given case can request that the Commission reconsider a decision by filing a petition with the Commission stating the grounds for reconsideration. This petition for reconsideration must be received by the Commission within 20 days of the date of the final Order in the given case. Any petition not granted within 20 days from the date of filing is denied.
Anyone who is a party to a given case can also appeal a final Commission decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, by filing within 21 days of the date of the final Order a Notice of Appeal with the Commission (attention: Administrative Director, MPUC, State House Station 18, Augusta, ME 04333). Such an appeal must follow the Courts Rules of Appellate Procedure.
You can view these rules from the Maine Court’s website. Scroll down to “Court Rules Continued”; there you will find the Maine Rules of Appellate Procedure.