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Work at the PSC and Beyond: A Two-year Snapshot of SCDCA’s Advocacy Division

Mon, 10/04/2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. – It has been nearly two years since the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA, the Department) began representing the interests of consumers under the Department’s renewed role in utility intervention. Specifically, SCDCA’s advocacy division focuses on how a rate case will affect people who use utilities for personal, family or household purposes. In the last two years SCDCA was involved in a variety of cases in front of the Public Service Commission (PSC), submitted comments to state and federal agencies on consumer issues and appointed a Deputy Consumer Advocate to focus on utility rate intervention.

Advocacy Two-year Snapshot

Appointed Deputy Consumer Advocate

One of the first things SCDCA did was hire someone to focus on utility rate intervention. Roger Hall was hired as an Assistant Consumer Advocate in January 2020 and appointed Deputy Consumer Advocate in February 2021. He previously spent seven years in private practice advising clients on environmental issues related to commercial real estate transactions in the telecommunications field. Hall began his career at the Department of Health and Environmental Control advising on issues related to environmental compliance, regulatory interpretation and agency policies. Hall completed a dual track program at Samford University receiving both a Juris Doctorate from its Cumberland School of Law and a Master’s in Environmental Management from the University. He is from Fredericksburg, VA and has lived in Columbia for 21 years.

Utility Work

The responsibility to intervene in utility rate filings was originally given to SCDCA in 1978.  The role was removed from the agency in 2004 and restored in July 2018. SCDCA’s first petition to intervene came in November 2019 when Blue Granite Water Company sought to increase its rates. The Department’s impact in this case include:

  • The PSC adopted a recommendation from SCDCA’s expert, dampening Blue Granite’s rate increase requests and saving consumers approximately $1.7 million annually.  
  • SCDCA successfully argued against the company’s July 2020 request to increase rates under bond. After arguments were made, the PSC stayed the request, ultimately saving consumers over $2 million during the pandemic. 
  • SCDCA continued representing the interests of residential consumers with regards to the Department’s expert’s testimony and the stay during Blue Granite’s appeal. On September 1, 2021, the Supreme Court upheld both the PSC’s return on equity decision and the stay.

In addition to SCDCA’s involvement in the Blue Granite case, the Department intervened in five additional matters before the PSC. This includes similar rate cases, such as the Dominion Energy of South Carolina case, as well as avoided cost dockets that deal with the relationship between solar and electricity companies.

Rulemaking

One of SCDCA’s advocacy roles is to inform state and federal agencies on how rules or regulations will affect South Carolina consumers. From July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021, SCDCA filed six comments with four different agencies, including the PSC. Topics covered include eliminating robocalls and consumer privacy, such as the PSC’s efforts to set guidelines for how a utility company can use customer information.

SCDCA also provided 11 comments to the PSC as the agency conducted its quintennial review of regulations. Overall, the Department’s comments were aimed at improving efficiency and uniformity in rate case proceedings and to better inform consumers regarding utility-related issues.

Other Work

SCDCA intervenes in certain insurance matters similar to the role with utility cases. In the past couple years, the Department worked closely with the Department of Insurance on the National Council of Compensation Insurance workers compensation filing and reviewed over two hundred twenty filings for fairness.

SCDCA has the duty to educate consumers on what is happening at the PSC and other agencies taking actions that may affect them. To learn more about the Department’s role, visit our Advocacy webpage. For the most up to date info, visit consumer.sc.gov and follow us on SCDCA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

About SCDCA

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll-free,

1 (800) 922-1594.

 

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