October 03, 2005

MADISON - The Citizens Utility Board supports the draft settlement announced today between the Wisconsin Attorney General and the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) regarding secret meetings between key PSC staff and a Wisconsin-based electric utility.

The draft settlement will likely be accepted by the Public Service Commission at its open meeting on Tuesday, October 4.The draft settlement will likely prohibit communications between the executive assistants to the Commissioners and parties participating in utility rate cases and other "contested case"

proceedings while the case is pending at the PSC. "This is a victory for ratepayers," said Charlie Higley, CUB executive director. "These changes by the PSC will help reduce the influence of the utilities on electric and gas rates and other issues that almost always cost ratepayers more money."

Between October 7 and October 12, 2004, We Energies and several senior staff at the PSC held secret conversations and made numerous changes to a draft PSC order. It was only by accident that CUB became aware of these secret dealings. CUB blew the whistle because CUB believed these actions were unlawful and that the PSC needed to reform its decision-making processes.

The PSC has tentatively agreed that utilities may not communicate with the executive assistants of the commissioners about the merits of major cases like rate cases while those cases are pending before the PSC. The PSC has also tentatively agreed that discussions among commissioners about draft orders should take place in open meetings.

CUB commends PSC Chairman Dan Ebert and Commissioner Mark Meyer for making these important reforms. These changes will help maintain public confidence in the fairness and integrity of the PSC's decisions, which affect every ratepayer in the state. CUB also commends the vigorous actions of Attorney General Lauthenschlager in investigating and settling this case. Without her efforts, these reforms would not have taken place.

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The Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin is a member-supported nonprofit organization that advocates for reliable and affordable utility service and that represents the interests of residential, farm, and small business customers of electric, natural gas, and telecommunication utilities before regulatory agencies and the courts.