Source of Funds
Funding for the Office of the People’s Counsel is provided through two sources:
- Appropriated Budget
- Assessment Funds.
All funds are paid by DC utility ratepayers.
Appropriated Budget (Operating Funds)
The appropriated budget provides for administrative and general operating expenses for OPC (rent, salaries, equipment) and is authorized by the District of Columbia in the governmental budget review process. Appropriated funds also are used to support such additional activities as:
- representing the interests of District consumers before the DC Council, Congress and federal courts and agencies;
- conducting independent investigations or audits of utility companies;
- monitoring the implementation of utility rates; and
- providing technical assistance to community groups. By law, these funds must be reimbursed to the District by the three regulated utility companies and the alternative energy and telecommunications providers, according to an established formula outlined in the Public Utility Reimbursement Fee Act, D.C. Code § 34-912(b)(1).
Formal Case Assessments
Assessment funds are used to pay the costs of litigation and investigations. OPC assesses the affected utility and the utility is allowed to recover those costs directly from consumers through rate increase cases.
To fully participate in complex litigation before the Public Service Commission and the courts, the People’s Counsel is authorized to retain the professional services of attorneys and expert technical consultants such as economists, accountants and engineers, as needed, to effectively represent DC utility consumers. By law, the affected utility company is required to pay a special franchise tax to cover the costs of regulatory litigation by OPC. In turn, the law recognizes that the utility may include these costs, as well as its own litigation-related expenses, as operating expenses that can be recovered from consumers through rate increase requests. OPC must adhere to monetary limits in imposing assessments on the utilities. In a rate case, the Office is permitted to assess no more than a total of one-quarter of one percent of a company’s District revenues. With respect to all other cases or investigations (those not involving the setting of rates), OPC is permitted to assess one twentieth of one percent of all investigations of a company per year. All unused money is returned to the company on an annual basis.