Skip to navigation Skip to content Skip to subnav
Searching 2021-2022 Session

The Vermont Statutes Online

 

Title 30: Public Service

Chapter 001: APPOINTMENT, GENERAL POWERS, AND DUTIES

  • § 1. Composition of Department

    (a) The Department of Public Service shall consist of the Commissioner of Public Service, a Director for Regulated Utility Planning, a Director for Public Advocacy, a Director for Energy Efficiency, a Director for Telecommunications and Connectivity, and such other persons as the Commissioner considers necessary to conduct the business of the Department.

    (b) The Commissioner shall be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Commissioner shall serve for a term of two years beginning on February 1 of the year in which the appointment is made. The Commissioner shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Directors for Regulated Utility Planning, for Public Advocacy, and for Energy Efficiency shall be appointed by the Commissioner. The Director for Telecommunications and Connectivity shall be appointed by the Commissioner in consultation with the Secretary of Administration.

    (c) The Directors for Public Advocacy and for Telecommunications and Connectivity may employ, with the approval of the Commissioner, legal counsel and other experts, and clerical assistance, and the Directors for Regulated Utility Planning and for Energy Efficiency may employ, with the approval of the Commissioner, experts and clerical assistance. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 38, 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1989, No. 238 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 4, 1990; 2015, No. 41, § 2.)

  • § 2. Department powers

    (a) The Department of Public Service shall supervise and direct the execution of all laws relating to public service corporations and firms and individuals engaged in such business, including the:

    (1) formation, organization, ownership, and acquisition of facilities of public service corporations under chapter 3 of this title;

    (2) participation in planning for proper utility service as provided in section 202 of this title through the Director for Regulated Utility Planning;

    (3) supervision and evaluation under chapters 5 and 77 of this title of the quality of service of public utility companies;

    (4) interconnection and interchange of facilities of electric companies under sections 210, 213, and 214 of this title;

    (5) representation of the State in the negotiations and proceedings for the procurement of electric energy from any source outside this State and from any generation facility inside the State under sections 211 and 212 of this title;

    (6) review of proposed changes in rate schedules and petition to the Public Utility Commission, and representation of the interests of the consuming public in proceedings to change rate schedules of public service companies under chapter 5 of this title;

    (7) siting of electric generation and transmission facilities under section 248 of this title;

    (8) consolidations and mergers of public service corporations under chapter 7 of this title;

    (9) supervision and regulation of cable television systems under chapter 13 of this title;

    (10) supervision and regulation of telegraph and telephone companies under chapters 71, 73, and 75 of this title;

    (11) supervision and regulation of the organization and operation of municipal plants under chapter 79 of this title; and

    (12) supervision and regulation of the organization and operation of electric cooperatives under chapter 81 of this title.

    (b) In cases requiring hearings by the Commission, the Department, through the Director for Public Advocacy, shall represent the interests of the people of the State, unless otherwise specified by law. In any hearing, the Commission may, if it determines that the public interest would be served, request the Attorney General or a member of the Vermont bar to represent the public or the State. In addition, the Department may intervene, appear, and participate in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proceedings, Federal Communications Commission proceedings, or other federal administrative proceedings on behalf of the Vermont public.

    (c) The Department may bring proceedings on its own motion before the Public Utility Commission, with respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission, and may initiate rulemaking proceedings before that Commission. The Public Utility Commission, with respect to any matter within its jurisdiction, may issue orders on its own motion and may initiate rulemaking proceedings.

    (d) In any proceeding where the decommissioning fund for the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Facility is involved, the Department shall represent the consuming public in a manner that acknowledges that the general public interest requires that the consuming public, rather than either the State's future consumers who never obtain benefits from the facility or the State's taxpayers, ought to provide for all costs of decommissioning. The Department shall seek to have the decommissioning fund be based on all reasonably expected costs.

    (e) The Commissioner of Public Service (the Commissioner) will work with the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (the Director), the Commissioner of Housing and Community Development, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA), the Vermont Community Action Partnership, and the efficiency entity or entities appointed under subdivision 209(d)(2) of this title and such other affected persons or entities as the Commissioner considers relevant to improve the energy efficiency of both single- and multi-family affordable housing units, including multi-family housing units previously funded by VHCB and VHFA and subject to the Multifamily Energy Design Standards adopted by the VHCB and VHFA. In consultation with the other entities identified in this subsection, the Commissioner and the Director together shall report twice to the House Committee on Energy and Technology and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, on or before January 31, 2015 and 2017, respectively, on their joint efforts to improve energy savings of affordable housing units and increase the number of units assisted, including their efforts to:

    (1) simplify access to funding and other resources for energy efficiency and renewable energy available for single- and multi-family affordable housing. For the purpose of this subsection, "renewable energy" shall have the same meaning as under section 8002 of this title;

    (2) ensure the delivery of energy services in a manner that is timely, comprehensive, and cost-effective;

    (3) implement the energy efficiency standards applicable to single- and multi-family affordable housing;

    (4) measure the results and performance of energy improvements;

    (5) develop guidance for the owners and residents of affordable housing to maximize energy savings from improvements; and

    (6) determine how to enhance energy efficiency resources for the affordable housing sector in a manner that avoids or reduces the need for assistance under 33 V.S.A. chapter 26 (home heating fuel assistance).

    (f) In performing its duties under this section, the Department shall give heightened consideration to the interests of ratepayer classes who are not independently represented parties in proceedings before the Commission, including residential, low-income, and small business consumers, as well as other consumers whose interests might otherwise not be adequately represented but for the Department's advocacy.

    (g) In all forums affecting policy and decision making for the New England region's electric system, including matters before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Independent System Operator of New England, the Department of Public Service shall advance positions that are consistent with the statutory policies and goals set forth in 10 V.S.A. §§ 578, 580, and 581 and sections 202a, 8001, 8004, and 8005 of this title. In those forums, the Department also shall advance positions that avoid or minimize adverse consequences to Vermont and its ratepayers from regional and inter-regional cost allocation for transmission projects. This subsection shall not compel the Department to initiate or participate in litigation and shall not preclude the Department from entering into agreements that represent a reasonable advance to these statutory policies and goals.

    (h) The Department shall investigate when it receives a complaint that there has been noncompliance with section 246, 248, 248a, or 8010 of this title, any rule adopted pursuant to those sections, or any certificate of public good issued pursuant to those sections, including a complaint of such noncompliance received pursuant to section 208 of this title or the complaint protocol established under 2016 Acts and Resolves No. 130, Sec. 5c. (Amended 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1989, No. 296 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. June 29, 1990; 2013, No. 89, § 12a; 2013, No. 91 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 1, 5, eff. Feb. 4, 2014; 2013, No. 99 (Adj. Sess.), § 9a, eff. April 1, 2014; 2015, No. 11, § 31; 2015, No. 56, § 22; 2017, No. 53, § 7; 2017, No. 113 (Adj. Sess.), § 173.)

  • § 3. Public Utility Commission

    (a) The Vermont Public Utility Commission shall consist of a chair and two members. The Chair and each member shall not be required to be admitted to the practice of law in this State.

    (b) The Chair shall be nominated, appointed, and confirmed in the manner of a Superior judge.

    (c) Members of the Commission other than the Chair shall be appointed in accordance with this subsection. Whenever a vacancy occurs, public announcement of the vacancy shall be made. The Governor shall submit at least five names of potential nominees to the Judicial Nominating Board for review. The Judicial Nominating Board shall review the candidates in respect to judicial criteria and standards only and shall recommend to the Governor those candidates the Board considers qualified. The Governor shall make the appointment from the list of qualified candidates. The appointment shall be subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

    (d)(1) The term of each member shall be six years.

    (2) Any appointment to fill a vacancy shall be for the unexpired portion of the term vacated.

    (3)(A) A chair wishing to succeed himself or herself in office may seek reappointment under the terms of subsection (b) of this section.

    (B) The Governor may reappoint a member of the Commission other than the Chair at the expiration of that member's term, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

    (e) Notwithstanding 3 V.S.A. § 2004, or any other provision of law, members of the Commission may be removed only for cause. When a Commission member who hears all or a substantial part of a case retires from office before such case is completed, he or she shall remain a member of the Commission for the purpose of concluding and deciding such case, and signing the findings, orders, decrees, and judgments therein. A retiring chair shall also remain a member for the purpose of certifying questions of law if appeal is taken. For such service, he or she shall receive a reasonable compensation to be fixed by the remaining members of the Commission and necessary expenses while on official business.

    (f) A case shall be deemed completed when the Commission enters a final order therein even though such order is appealed to the Supreme Court and the case remanded by that Court to the Commission. Upon remand the Commission then in office may in its discretion consider relevant evidence including any part of the transcript of testimony in the proceedings prior to appeal.

    (g) The Chair shall have general charge of the offices and employees of the Commission. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), (c), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1985, No. 108 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. March 25, 1986; 1993, No. 21, § 1, eff. May 12, 1993; 2017, No. 53, § 9; 2019, No. 128 (Adj. Sess.), § 13.)

  • § 4. Qualifications of members, commissioners, and clerk

    A person in the employ of or holding any official relation to any company subject to the supervision of the Commission, or engaged in the management of such company, or owning stock, bonds, or other securities thereof, or who is, in any manner, connected with the operation of such company in this State, shall not be a member or clerk of the Commission or Commissioner of Public Service; nor shall any person holding the office of member, clerk of the Commission, or Commissioner of Public Service personally or in connection with a partner or agent, render professional service for or against or make or perform any business contract with any company subject to such supervision, relating to the business of such company, except contracts made with them as common carriers or in regular course of public service; nor shall such person, directly or indirectly, receive from any such company any commission, present, or reward. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 5. Clerk; oath

    The Commission shall appoint a clerk, who shall serve during its pleasure. The Commission members and clerk shall be sworn to the faithful discharge of the duties of their offices and, before entering upon the same, shall file a certificate of their oaths for record in the Office of the Secretary of State. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), (c), eff. March 1, 1961.)

  • § 6. Powers and duties of clerk

    The clerk shall have the custody of the seal of the Commission, keep a full record of its proceedings, file and preserve at its office all documents and papers entrusted to his or her care, prepare such papers and notices as may be required by the Commission, and perform such other duties as it may prescribe. The clerk shall have power, under the direction of the Commission, to issue subpoenas for witnesses and to administer oaths in all cases before the Commission or pertaining to the duties of the office. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1993, No. 21, § 2, eff. May 12, 1993.)

  • § 7. Quorum; meetings

    Two Commission members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of any business. Meetings of the Commission may be held at any time or place within the State upon call of the Chair or the other two members, after a reasonable notice to the other members, and shall be held at such times and places as in the judgment of the Commission will best serve the convenience of all parties in interest. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(a), (b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1993, No. 21, § 3, eff. May 12, 1993.)

  • § 8. Powers of single Commission member or other officer or employee

    (a) One Commission member or any officer or employee of the Commission duly appointed by the Chair of the Commission may inquire into and examine any matter within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

    (b) A hearing officer may administer oaths in all cases, so far as the exercise of that power is properly incidental to the performance of his or her duty or that of the Commission. A hearing officer may hold any hearing in any matter within the jurisdiction of the Commission to hear.

    (c) A hearing officer shall report his or her findings of fact in writing to the Commission in the form of a proposal for decision. A copy shall be served upon the parties pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 811. However, judgment on such findings shall be rendered only by a majority of the Commission.

    (d) At least 12 days prior to a hearing before the Commission or a hearing officer, the Commission shall give written notice of the time and place of the hearing to all parties to the case and shall indicate the name and title of the person designated to conduct the hearing.

    (e) Upon written request to the Commission at least five days prior to the hearing by all parties to the case, the Chair shall appoint at least a majority of the Commission to conduct the hearing.

    (f) Notwithstanding subsection (c) of this section, the Chair may appoint a hearing officer to hear and finally determine any consumer complaint where the amount in controversy does not exceed $2,000.00. Upon petition of a party, filed within 30 days of issuance of the hearing officer's decision and order, or on its own motion, the Commission may determine that the hearing officer's decision and order should be treated as a proposal for decision and order as provided in subsection (c) of this section. The Commission may grant such request for good cause, including apparent error of fact, or procedural or substantive law, and may conduct additional evidentiary hearings or hear oral argument from the parties. If such request is not timely made, or is not granted by the Commission, the decision and order of the hearing officer shall become the final decision and order of the Commission. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), (c), eff. March 1, 1961; 1971, No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. March 28, 1972; 1973, No. 96; 1993, No. 21, § 4, eff. May 12, 1993.)

  • § 9. Court of record; seal

    The Commission shall have the powers of a court of record in the determination and adjudication of all matters over which it is given jurisdiction. It may render judgments, make orders and decrees, and enforce the same by any suitable process issuable by courts in this State. The Commission shall have an official seal on which shall be the words, "State of Vermont. Public Utility Commission. Official Seal."  (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961.)

  • § 10. Service of process; notice of hearings; temporary restraining orders

    (a) All processes issued by the Commission shall state the time and place of return, in those cases where return is to be made to the Commission. Orders, notices, and other processes issued by the Commission shall be served personally or by first class mail, except that the Commission may direct that service be made by registered or certified mail. If the whereabouts of a person are unknown, or if the number of respondents is so great that personal service or service by mail is impracticable, service may be made by publication.

    (b) Except as provided in subsections (c), (d), and (e) of this section, the Commission shall give 12 days' notice of all hearings.

    (c) A scheduling or procedural conference may be held upon any reasonable notice.

    (d) An evidentiary hearing, once commenced upon proper notice, may be continued to a subsequent date upon any reasonable notice.

    (e) Notwithstanding any other provision in this section, the Commission or a single member may grant temporary restraining orders in the manner provided by and subject to limitations prescribed by the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure.

    (f) The provisions of sections 110-124 of this title relating to process and notice in condemnation cases shall not be affected by this section. (Amended 1959, No. 186, § 1, eff. May 20, 1959; 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1975, No. 59, § 1, eff. April 18, 1975; 1975, No. 212 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1985, No. 103 (Adj. Sess.); 1993, No. 21, § 5, eff. May 12, 1993; 2019, No. 31, § 22.)

  • § 11. Pleadings; rules of practice; hearings; findings of fact

    (a) The forms, pleadings, and rules of practice and procedure before the Commission shall be prescribed by it. The Commission shall adopt rules that include, among other things, provisions that:

    (1) A utility whose rates are suspended under the provisions of section 226 of this title shall, within 30 days from the date of the suspension order, file with the Commission all exhibits it intends to use in the hearing thereon together with the names of witnesses it intends to produce in its direct case and a short statement of the purposes of the testimony of each witness. Except in the discretion of the Commission, a utility shall not be permitted to introduce into evidence in its direct case exhibits which are not filed in accordance with this rule.

    (2) A scheduling conference shall be ordered in every contested rate case. At such conference the Commission may require the State or any person opposing such rate increase to specify what items shown by the filed exhibits are conceded. Further proof of conceded items shall not be required.

    (b) The Commission shall allow all members of the public to attend each of its hearings unless the hearing is for the sole purpose of considering information to be treated as confidential pursuant to a protective order duly adopted by the Commission.

    (1) The Commission shall make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the location of each hearing is sufficient to accommodate all members of the public seeking to attend.

    (2) The Commission shall ensure that the public may safely attend the hearing, including obtaining such resources as may be necessary to fulfill this obligation.

    (c) The Commission shall hear all matters within its jurisdiction and make its findings of fact. It shall state its rulings of law when they are excepted to. Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, its findings of fact shall be accepted unless clearly erroneous. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 211, eff. March 29, 1972; 2013, No. 91 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 2015, No. 23, § 134; 2017, No. 53, § 13a; 2019, No. 31, § 21.)

  • § 11a. Electronic filing and issuance

    (a) As used in this section:

    (1) "Confidential document" means a document containing information for which confidentiality has been asserted and that has been filed with the Commission and parties in a proceeding subject to a protective order duly issued by the Commission.

    (2) "Document" means information inscribed on a tangible medium or stored in an electronic or other medium and retrievable in perceivable form.

    (3) "Electronic filing" means the transmission of documents to the Commission by electronic means.

    (4) "Electronic filing system" means a Commission-designated system that provides for the electronic filing of documents with the Commission and for the electronic issuance of documents by the Commission. If the system provides for the filing or issuance of confidential documents, it shall be capable of maintaining the confidentiality of confidential documents and of limiting access to confidential documents to individuals explicitly authorized to access such confidential documents.

    (5) "Electronic issuance" means:

    (A) the transmission by electronic means of a document that the Commission has issued, including an order, proposal for decision, or notice; or

    (B) the transmission of a message from the Commission by electronic means informing the recipients that the Commission has issued a document, including an order, proposal for decision, or notice, and that it is available for viewing and retrieval from an electronic filing system.

    (6) "Electronic means" means any Commission-authorized method of electronic transmission of a document.

    (b) The Commission by order, rule, procedure, or practice may:

    (1) provide for electronic issuance of any notice, order, proposal for decision, or other process issued by the Commission, notwithstanding any other service requirements set forth in this title or in 10 V.S.A. chapter 43;

    (2) require electronic filing of documents with the Commission;

    (3) for any filing or submittal to the Commission for which the filing or submitting entity is required to provide notice or a copy to another State agency under this title or under 10 V.S.A. chapter 43, waive such requirement if the State agency will receive notice of and access to the filing or submittal through an electronic filing system; and

    (4) for any filing, order, proposal for decision, notice, or other process required to be served or delivered by first-class mail or personal delivery under this title or under 10 V.S.A. chapter 43, waive such requirement to the extent the required recipients will receive the filing, order, proposal of decision, notice, or other process by electronic means or will receive notice of and access to the filing, order, proposal of decision, notice, or other process through an electronic filing system.

    (c) Any order, rule, procedure, or practice issued under subsection (b) of this section shall include exceptions to accommodate parties and other participants who are unable to file or receive documents by electronic means.

    (d) Subsection (b) of this section shall not apply to the requirements for service of citations and notices in writing as set forth in sections 111(b), 111a(i), and 2804 of this title. (Added 2013, No. 91 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. Feb. 4, 2014.)

  • § 12. Review by Supreme Court

    A party to a cause who feels aggrieved by the final order, judgment, or decree of the Commission may appeal to the Supreme Court. However, the Commission, in its discretion and before final judgment, may permit an appeal to be taken by any party to the Supreme Court for determination of questions of law in such manner as the Supreme Court may by rule provide for appeals before final judgment from a Superior Court. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure or the Vermont Rules of Appellate Procedure, neither the time for filing a notice of appeal nor the filing of a notice of appeal, as provided herein, shall operate as a stay of enforcement of an order of the Commission unless the Commission or the Supreme Court grants a stay under the provisions of section 14 of this title. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1967, No. 205, § 1; 1971, No. 242 (Adj. Sess.); 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974; 2009, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), § 188.)

  • § 13. Repealed. 1967, No. 205, § 3.

  • § 14. Powers of Supreme Court

    The Supreme Court may reverse or affirm the judgments, orders, or decrees of the Commission and may remand a cause to it with such mandates, as law or equity shall require; and the Commission shall enter judgment, order, or decree in accordance with such mandates. The transfer of the cause to the Supreme Court shall not vacate any judgment, order, or decree of the Commission, but the Supreme Court or, when not in session, a Justice thereof upon notice to interested parties, may suspend execution of the same as justice and equity require, unless otherwise specifically provided by law; provided, however, that the execution of rate orders shall not be suspended at the request of a utility unless the utility files with the Commission a bond running to the members of the Commission and their successors in office in an amount and with sureties approved by the Court or a Justice thereof conditioned that within 30 days after the termination of the proceedings the company shall repay to the persons from whom collected and after the effective date of the Commission's final order all sums in excess of the rates finally determined to be just and reasonable. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1961, No. 263, § 4(c), eff. July 31, 1961.)

  • § 15. Decree of Commission; enforcement

    A party to an order or decree of the Public Utility Commission or the Commission itself, or both, may complain to the Supreme Court for relief against any disobedience of or noncompliance with such order or decree. In such proceedings and upon such notice thereof to the parties as it shall direct, the Supreme Court shall hear and consider such petition and make such order and decree in the premises by way of writ of mandamus, writ of prohibition, injunction, or otherwise, concerning the enforcement of such order and decree of the Public Utility Commission as to law and equity shall appertain. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961.)

  • § 16. Repealed. 1959, No. 186, § 2, eff. May 20, 1959.

  • § 17. Fees of witnesses; duties of clerk

    The fees of witnesses before the Commission shall be the same as in the Superior Court. In all causes in behalf of or for the convenience or safety of the public, and in the investigation of accidents, the fees of witnesses and the expense of summoning them shall be paid by the clerk of the Commission. From time to time, the clerk shall make requisition on the Commissioner of Finance and Management for money to pay such fees and expenses, and the Commissioner of Finance and Management shall issue warrants therefor. The clerk shall quarterly, on February, May, August, and November 1, render to the Commissioner of Finance and Management an account of his or her receipts and disbursements under this section, and pay any unexpended balance into the State Treasury. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974; 1983, No. 195 (Adj. Sess.), § 5(b).)

  • § 18. Production and examination of books; witnesses

    So far as is necessary for the performance of its duties, the Public Utility Commission or the Commissioner of Public Service, the Directors for Public Advocacy and Regulated Utility Planning, and any other employee of the Department authorized by the Commissioner shall have power to examine the books, accounts, and papers of any company, receiver, trustee, or lessee owning or operating any line, plant, or property, subject to the Commission's or the Department's jurisdiction that in any way relate to or contain entries, data, or memoranda concerning any transaction substantially affecting the interests of the State of Vermont or consumers of utility services within the State, to subpoena witnesses, to administer oaths to them, and to examine them on all matters of which the Commission or Department has jurisdiction. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1961, No. 183, § 1; 1971, No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. March 28, 1972; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1983, No. 230 (Adj. Sess.), § 13.)

  • § 19. Experts

    With the approval of the Governor, the Commission may appoint and employ, at the expense of the State, engineers, accountants, legal counsel, and such number of clerks, stenographers, experts, and temporary employees as it deems necessary in the performance of its duties and in the investigation of matters within its jurisdiction. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1971, No. 191 (Adj. Sess.), § 13.)

  • § 20. Particular proceedings and activities; personnel

    (a)(1) The Commission or the Department of Public Service may authorize or retain legal counsel, official stenographers, expert witnesses, advisors, temporary employees, and other research, scientific, or engineering services:

    (A) To assist the Commission or Department in any proceeding listed in subsection (b) of this section.

    (B) To monitor compliance with any formal opinion or order of the Commission.

    (C) In proceedings under section 248 of this title, to assist other State agencies that are named parties to the proceeding where the Commission or Department determines that they are essential to a full consideration of the petition, or for the purpose of monitoring compliance with an order resulting from such a petition.

    (D) In addition to the services in subdivisions (1)(A)-(C) of this subsection (a), in proceedings under subsection 248(h) of this title, by contract with the regional planning commission of the region or regions affected by a proposed facility, to assist in determining conformance with local and regional plans and to obtain the commission's data, analysis, and recommendations on the economic, environmental, historic, or other impact of the proposed facility in the region.

    (E) To assist in monitoring the ongoing and future reliability and the postclosure activities of any nuclear generating plant within the State. In this section, "postclosure activities" includes planning for and implementation of any action within the State's jurisdiction that shall or will occur when the plant permanently ceases generating electricity.

    (2) The Agency of Natural Resources may authorize or retain legal counsel, official stenographers, expert witnesses, advisors, temporary employees, and other research, scientific, or engineering services to:

    (A) Assist the Agency of Natural Resources in any proceeding under section 248 of this title.

    (B) Monitor compliance with an order issued under section 248 of this title.

    (C) Assist the Commission or the Department of Public Service in any proceedings described in subdivisions (b)(9)(Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and (11)(Nuclear Regulatory Commission) of this section. Allocation of Agency of Natural Resources costs under this subdivision (C) shall be in the same manner as provided under subdivisions (b)(9) and (11) of this section. The Agency of Natural Resources shall report annually to the Joint Fiscal Committee all costs incurred and expenditures charged under the authority of this subsection (a) with respect to proceedings under subdivision (b)(9) of this section and the purpose for which such costs were incurred and expenditures made.

    (D) Assist in monitoring the postclosure activities of any nuclear generating plant within the State.

    (3) The Department of Health may authorize or retain legal counsel, official stenographers, expert witnesses, advisors, temporary employees, and other research, scientific, or engineering services to assist in monitoring the postclosure activities of any nuclear generating plant within the State.

    (4) The Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security may authorize or retain legal counsel, official stenographers, expert witnesses, advisors, employees, and other research, scientific, or engineering services, or other planning expenses to assist in monitoring the postclosure activities of any nuclear generating plant within the State.

    (5) The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets may authorize or retain legal counsel, official stenographers, expert witnesses, advisors, temporary employees, and other research, scientific, or engineering services to:

    (A) assist the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets in any proceeding under section 248 of this title; or

    (B) monitor compliance with an order issued under section 248 of this title.

    (6) The personnel authorized by this section shall be in addition to the regular personnel of the Commission or the Department of Public Service or other State agencies; and in the case of the Department of Public Service or other State agencies may be retained only with the approval of the Governor and after notice to the applicant or the company or companies involved. The Commission or the Department of Public Service shall fix the amount of compensation and expenses to be paid such additional personnel, except that the Agency of Natural Resources, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, or the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, respectively, shall fix the amount of compensation and expenses to be paid to additional personnel that it retains under subdivision (2), (3), (4), or (5) of this subsection.

    (b) Proceedings, including appeals therefrom, for which additional personnel may be retained are:

    (1) Hearings resulting from a utility request to seek an increase in its rates, tolls, or charges, including hearings resulting from complaints against the proposed increase.

    (2) Hearings resulting from a petition by a utility or a person operating a utility to issue stock, bonds, notes, or other evidences of indebtedness for which the approval of the Commission is required by law.

    (3) Hearings resulting from a petition for a merger, consolidation, or acquisition for which the approval of the Commission is required by law.

    (4) Hearings resulting from a petition for a certificate of public good.

    (5) Hearings resulting from a petition to acquire property through the exercise of eminent domain under section 110 et seq. of this title.

    (6) Hearings resulting from an investigation initiated by the Commission or resulting from a petition brought by the Department.

    (7) Proceedings under chapter 13 of this title relating to regulation of cable television systems, provided that due regard shall be taken of a cable television company's size and gross operating revenues.

    (8) Hearings resulting from opinions requested under subsection 248(h) of this title.

    (9) Proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which involve Vermont utilities or which may affect the interests of the State of Vermont. Costs under this subdivision shall be charged to the involved electric or natural gas companies pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title. In cases where the proceeding is generic in nature, the costs shall be allocated to electric or natural gas companies in proportion to the benefits sought for the customers of such companies from such advocacy. The Public Utility Commission and the Department of Public Service shall report quarterly to the Joint Fiscal Committee all costs incurred and expenditures charged under the authority of this subsection, and the purpose for which such costs were incurred and expenditures made.

    (10) Proceedings under the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

    (11) Proceedings at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which involve Vermont utilities or which may affect the interests of the State of Vermont. Costs under this subdivision shall be charged to the involved electric companies pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title. In cases where the proceeding is generic in nature, the costs shall be allocated to electric companies in proportion to the benefits sought for the customers of such companies from such advocacy.

    (12) Proceedings at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court which involve Vermont utilities or which may affect the interests of the State of Vermont. Costs under this subdivision shall be charged to the involved utilities pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title. In cases where the proceeding is generic in nature, the costs shall be allocated to utilities in proportion to the benefits sought for the customers of such companies from such advocacy.

    (13) Proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission or related forums which involve Vermont utilities or which may affect the interests of the State of Vermont. Costs under this subdivision shall be charged, pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title, to the companies providing telecommunications services on a common carrier basis. In cases where the proceeding is generic in nature, the costs shall be allocated to companies in proportion to the benefits sought for their customers from such advocacy.

    (14) Proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission or related forums which involve a company that owns a cable television system holding a certificate of public good and delivering services in Vermont or which may affect the interests of the State of Vermont. Costs under this subdivision shall be charged to the company pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title. In cases where the proceeding is generic in nature, the costs shall be allocated to companies in proportion to the benefits sought for their customers from such advocacy.

    (15) Proceedings before any State or federal court concerning a company holding or a facility subject to a certificate issued under this title if the proceedings may affect the interests of the State of Vermont. Costs under this subdivision (15) shall be charged to the involved company pursuant to subsection 21(a) of this title. In cases where the proceeding is generic in nature, the costs shall be allocated to companies in proportion to the benefits sought for their customers from such advocacy.

    (c) Persons employed by the State are competent to be designated to act for the same purposes and in lieu of or in conjunction with additional personnel retained under this section. However, when so acting, they shall not receive compensation in addition to their regular pay. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1961, No. 258, § 1, eff. July 31, 1961; 1975, No. 254 (Adj. Sess.), § 154; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1987, No. 65, § 7, eff. May 28, 1987; 1987, No. 271 (Adj. Sess.), § 16, eff. June 21, 1988; 1987, No. 273 (Adj. Sess.), § 4, eff. June 21, 1988; 1989, No. 63, § 1, eff. May 22, 1989; 1995, No. 182 (Adj. Sess.), § 12, eff. May 22, 1996; 1997, No. 135 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1999, No. 49, § 150; 1999, No. 155 (Adj. Sess.), § 12h; 2001, No. 143 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 47, 48; 2003, No. 98 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2009, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § F25; 2011, No. 47, § 20n, eff. May 25, 2011; 2015, No. 172 (Adj. Sess.), § E.233.)

  • § 21. Particular proceedings and activities; assessment of costs

    (a) An agency may allocate the portion of the expense incurred or authorized by it in retaining additional personnel pursuant to section 20 of this title to the applicant or the company or companies involved. As used in this section, "agency" means an agency, board, commission, or department of the State enabled to authorize or retain personnel under section 20 of this title.

    (1) The Commission shall upon petition of an applicant or company to which costs are proposed to be allocated, review and determine, after opportunity for hearing, having due regard for the size and complexity of the project, the necessity and reasonableness of such costs, and may amend or revise such allocations. Nothing in this section shall confer authority on the Commission to select or decide the personnel, the expenses of whom are being allocated, unless such personnel are retained by the Commission. Prior to allocating costs, the Commission shall make a determination of the purpose and use of the funds to be raised hereunder, identify the recipient of the funds, provide for allocation of costs among companies to be assessed, indicate an estimated duration of the retention of personnel whose costs are being allocated, and estimate the total costs to be imposed. With the approval of the Commission, such estimates may be revised as necessary. From time to time during the progress of the work of such additional personnel, the agency retaining the personnel shall render to the company detailed statements showing the amount of money expended or contracted for in the work of such personnel, which statements shall be paid by the applicant or the company into the State Treasury at such time and in such manner as the agency may reasonably direct.

    (2) In any proceeding under section 248 of this title, the Agency of Natural Resources may allocate the portion of the expense incurred in retaining additional staff authorized in subsection (a) of this section only if the following apply:

    (A) the Agency of Natural Resources does not have the expertise, and the retention of such expertise is required to fulfill its statutory obligations in the proceeding; and

    (B) the Agency of Natural Resources allocates only that portion of the cost for such expertise that exceeds the fee paid by the applicant under section 248b of this title.

    (b) When regular employees of an agency are employed in the particular proceedings and activities described in section 20 of this title, the agency may also allocate the portion of its costs and expenses to the applicant or the company or companies involved. The costs of regular employees shall be computed on the basis of working days within the salary period, except that the Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security may allocate the full cost of the regular employee. The manner of assessment and of making payments shall otherwise be as provided for additional personnel in subsection (a) of this section. However, with respect to proceedings under section 248 of this title, the Agency of Natural Resources shall not allocate the costs of regular employees.

    (c) With the approval of the Governor, the Department of Public Service may also allocate such portion of expense incurred by it in administering the purchase of electric energy or power or natural gas from outside the State, to the electric or gas distribution companies, cooperative, municipal or privately owned, to which such energy, power, or gas is sold, in proportion to the purchases thereof to such companies. When regular employees are employed on such work, their cost shall be computed on the basis of working days within the salary period. The manner of assessment and making payments shall otherwise be as provided for additional personnel in subsection (a) of this section.

    (d) The Agency of Natural Resources may allocate expenses under this section only for costs in excess of the amount specified in 3 V.S.A. § 2809(d)(1)(A).

    (e) Annually, on or before January 15, each agency shall report to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and the House Committees on Energy and Technology and on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife the total amount of expenses allocated under this section during the previous fiscal year. The report shall include the name of each applicant or company to whom expenses were allocated and the amount allocated to each applicant or company. The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets also shall submit a copy of its report to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

    (f) With the approval of the Governor, the Department of Public Service may allocate the expense incurred under 10 V.S.A. § 7063 in compensating members and alternate members of the Commission among the generators of low-level radioactive waste in the State. Any such allocation shall be in proportion to the volume of waste generated by each such generator.

    (g) An agency may allocate such portion of expense incurred or authorized by it in compensating persons retained in the monitoring of postclosure activities of a nuclear generating plant pursuant to subsection 20(a) of this title to the plant whose activities are being monitored. Except for the Commission, the agency shall obtain the approval of the Governor before making such an allocation.

    (h) Under subsections (f) and (g) of this section, the manner of assessment and making payments shall be as provided in subsection (a) of this section. A generator or plant to which expense is allocated under subsection (f) or (g) of this section may petition the Commission in accordance with the procedures of subsection (a) of this section.

    (i) If an invoice for expenses incurred under subsection (a) of this section is not paid within 45 days after the date of mailing:

    (1) the Commission may withhold the issuance of or revoke any related certificate of public good, provided the applicant is given an opportunity for hearing after reasonable notice;

    (2) an agency may charge simple interest of one percent per month on the unpaid amount of the invoice for the period from 45 days after the date of mailing to the date of full payment of the amount due; and

    (3) an agency may either contract with private collection agencies to collect principal and interest due or use setoff debt collection, as provided in 32 V.S.A. §§ 5931-5940. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 7, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1989, No. 63, § 2, eff. May 22, 1989; 1999, No. 49, § 151; 1999, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2009, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § F26; 2011, No. 47, § 20o, eff. May 25, 2011; 2011, No. 139 (Adj. Sess.), § 27, eff. May 14, 2012; 2015, No. 57, § 17a; 2015, No. 172 (Adj. Sess.), § E.233.1; 2017, No. 113 (Adj. Sess.), § 173a; 2019, No. 175 (Adj. Sess.), § 23, eff. Oct. 8, 2020.)

  • § 22. Tax to finance Department and Commission

    (a) For the purpose of maintaining the Department of Public Service and Public Utility Commission, including expenses related to maintaining an adequate engineering, legal, and administrative force in the Department of Public Service and paying all the expenses incident thereof, including rents, each person, partnership, association, or private or municipal corporation conducting a business subject to the supervision of the Department of Public Service and Public Utility Commission, including electric cooperatives, shall pay into the State Treasury on or before April 15 annually, in addition to the taxes now required by law to be paid, a tax, at the rate hereinafter named, according to the nature of the public service business engaged in by such person, partnership, association, or private or municipal corporation, based on the gross operating revenue received by such person, partnership, association, or private or municipal corporation in the conduct of such business in the State during the year next preceding, as shown by the annual report filed on or before such date with the Department of Public Service on the form prescribed by it and containing such information as may be necessary to enable the Department to determine the amount of the tax payable.

    (1) The rate of tax for each type of public service company, for the purpose of maintaining the Department of Public Service, shall be the following:

    (A) for companies, cooperative, municipal or privately owned, generating, distributing, selling, or transmitting electric energy, 0.00320 of gross operating revenue;

    (B) for telephone companies, 0.003 of gross operating revenue or $300.00, whichever is greater;

    (C) for gas companies, 0.00320 of gross operating revenue;

    (D) for water companies, 0.0006 of gross operating revenue or $3.00, whichever is greater;

    (E) for companies owning or operating a cable television system, 0.003 of gross operating revenue or $15.00, whichever is greater, $25,000.00 of which shall be used each year by the Department for special planning functions relating to cable television systems;

    (F) for companies whose sole telephone business consists of owning customer-owned, coin-operated telephones with total annual revenues of less than $5,000.00, the choice of either 0.003 of gross operating revenue from telephone revenues or the amount of $12.00; and

    (G) for all other companies named in section 203 of this title, 0.0006 of gross operating revenues.

    (2) The rate of tax for each type of public service company, for the purpose of maintaining the Public Utility Commission, shall be the following:

    (A) for companies, cooperative, municipal or privately owned, generating, distributing, selling, or transmitting electric energy, 0.00205 of gross operating revenue;

    (B) for telephone companies, 0.002 of gross operating revenue or $200.00, whichever is greater;

    (C) for gas companies, 0.00205 of gross operating revenue;

    (D) for water companies, 0.0004 of gross operating revenue or $2.00, whichever is greater;

    (E) for companies owning or operating a cable television system, 0.002 of gross operating revenue or $10.00, whichever is greater;

    (F) for companies whose sole telephone business consists of owning customer-owned, coin-operated telephones with total annual revenues of less than $5,000.00, the choice of either 0.002 of gross operating revenue from telephone revenues or the amount of $8.00; and

    (G) for all other companies named in section 203 of this title, 0.0004 of gross operating revenues.

    (b) The taxes levied under this section shall not apply to sales of electrical power for resale.

    (c) [Repealed.]

    (d)(1) On June 30 of each year, any balance in the amount received by the Public Utility Commission from the special fund for the maintenance of engineering and accounting forces, after accounting for expenditures and encumbrances, in excess of 20 percent of the funds received by the Commission for that year shall be used in the manner provided by subdivision (3) of this subsection.

    (2) On June 30 of each year, any balance in the amount received by the Department of Public Service from the special fund for the maintenance of engineering and accounting forces, after accounting for expenditures and encumbrances, in excess of 20 percent of the funds received by the Department for that year shall be used in the manner provided by subdivision (3) of this subsection.

    (3) The excess balances determined under subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection shall be used in the next succeeding year to directly reduce the rates otherwise collected from the ratepayers of this State for the costs of the telephone Lifeline program authorized by subsection 218(c) of this title. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1961, No. 258, § 2, eff. July 31, 1961; 1973, No. 247 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 8, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1985, No. 115 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1985, No. 224 (Adj. Sess.), § 8; 1987, No. 272 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1989, No. 254 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 1, 2; 1991, No. 154 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 1, 2; 1995, No. 182 (Adj. Sess.), § 24; 1995, No. 182 (Adj. Sess.), § 24a, eff. July 1, 1998; 1995, No. 182 (Adj. Sess.), § 25, eff. May 22, 1996; 1997, No. 155 (Adj. Sess.), § 10; 2009, No. 33, § 58; 2019, No. 70, § 9.)

  • § 22a. Use of gross operating revenues tax

    Expenses incurred by the Department for the support of activities relating to wholesale and retail sales of electricity shall be paid from revenues received by the Department from such sales. (Added 1987, No. 272 (Adj. Sess.), § 2.)

  • § 23. Public Service Reserve Fund

    There is hereby created a fund to be known as the Public Service Reserve Fund for the purpose of providing the financial means for the Public Utility Commission and the Department of Public Service to employ legal counsel, official stenographers, and disinterested competent persons to examine into and testify in any matter involved in a hearing under sections 218, 225, 226, and 227 of this title other than the hearings referred to in sections 20 and 21 of this title. Payments into the Public Service Reserve Fund shall be made as follows: All electric distribution companies, cooperative, municipal, and privately owned, which have been allocated a share of St. Lawrence power by the Department, shall pay into the State Treasury for such reserve on or before September 15, 1961 and September 15, 1962, in addition to the taxes now required by law to be paid, a tax to produce a total of $37,500.00 in the aggregate for each such payment to be paid by each such company in proportion to its purchase of St. Lawrence power, during the calendar years 1959 and 1960. Thereafter, on June 30 of each year, there shall be deducted from the balance in the special fund for the maintenance of the Department's engineering and accounting force and personnel employed by the Commission the tax revenues payable under section 22 of this title in that year, and the balance thus determined shall be transferred from the special fund for the maintenance of the engineering and accounting force to the Public Service Reserve Fund; provided, however, that, if at June 30 of any year the balance in such public service reserve fund shall be in excess of $100,000.00, the amount of such excess shall forthwith be transferred to the General Fund. (Added 1961, No. 258, § 2, eff. July 31, 1961; amended 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 9, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 24. Payments from special funds; biennial report

    All payments from the special fund for the maintenance of the engineering and accounting forces and from the Public Service Reserve Fund shall be dispensed from the State Treasury only upon warrants issued by the Commissioner of Finance and Management after receipt of proper statements describing services rendered and expenses incurred. A complete, detailed, and full accounting of all receipts from the taxes assessed in sections 22 and 23 of this title and all disbursements from the special fund for the maintenance of the engineering and accounting forces and from the Public Service Reserve Fund shall be contained in the Department's biennial report to the General Assembly. The provisions of 2 V.S.A. § 20(d) (expiration of required reports) shall not apply to the report to be made under this section. (Added 1961, No. 258, § 2, eff. July 31, 1961; amended 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 10, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1983, No. 195 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; 2011, No. 139 (Adj. Sess.), § 28, eff. May 14, 2012.)

  • § 25. Assessment

    When the Department of Public Service discovers from the examination of the return or otherwise that the revenue of any company, or any portion thereof, has not been assessed, it may at any time within two years after the time when the return was due, assess the same and give notice to the company of such assessment, and within 30 days such company shall thereupon have an opportunity to confer with the Department as to the proposed assessment. The limitation of two years to the assessment of such tax or additional tax shall not apply to the assessment of additional taxes upon fraudulent returns. After the expiration of 30 days from such notification, the Department shall reassess the revenue of such company or any portion thereof which it finds has not theretofore been assessed and shall give notice to the company so reassessed, of the amount of the tax and interest and penalties, if any, and the amount thereof shall be due and payable within 10 days from the date of such notice. No additional tax amounting to less than $1.00 shall be assessed. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 11, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 26. Penalty

    When such annual report for any year is not rendered to the Department of Public Service and the tax due thereon is not paid on or before April 15 next following, there shall be added to the tax an additional amount equal to five percent thereof or  $1.00, whichever is greater, if such return is made and tax paid within 15 days after becoming due, and 25 percent of the tax or $10.00, whichever is greater, if such return is not made and tax paid within 15 days after becoming due. When a company, which has failed to file such return or has filed an incorrect or insufficient return and has been notified by the Department of its delinquency refuses or neglects within 20 days after such notice to file a proper return, or files a fraudulent return, the Department shall determine the tax due according to its best information and belief and shall increase the amount of the tax so determined by 50 percent or $20.00, whichever is greater. No assessment shall be made under this section unless made within two years from the date on which a correct return should have been filed but the limitation of two years to the assessment of such tax or additional tax shall not apply to the assessment of additional taxes upon fraudulent returns. In its discretion, the Department may waive the penalties mentioned in this section if it is satisfied that the default was for any justifiable cause, and it may extend the time for filing returns or paying such tax, not to exceed two months. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 12, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 27. Review

    The assessment by the Commission or Department of Public Service of any tax or penalty under the provisions of sections 20-25 of this title may be appealed to the Washington Superior Court. The appeal shall be filed within 90 days after the receipt by the company or its agent of written notice by the Commission or Department of its assessment. Thereupon, appropriate proceedings shall be had and the relief, if any, to which the company may be found entitled may be granted and any taxes, interest, or penalties paid, found by the Court to be illegally assessed, shall be ordered refunded to the company with interest at six percent per annum from the time of payment, with costs, and judgment entered accordingly. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 13, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1997, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 20, eff. Jan. 1, 1998.)

  • § 28. Hearings

    For the purpose of ascertaining the correctness of any return or for the purpose of making an estimate of the taxes due from any company, the Department of Public Service shall have power to examine or cause to be examined by any agent or representative designated by it for that purpose any books, papers, records, or memoranda of the company or of any person or corporation in the State bearing upon the matters required to be included in the return, and may require the attendance of any person having knowledge in the premises, at any place in the county where such person resides, and may take testimony and require proof material for its information, with power to administer an oath to such person. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 14, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 29. Right of inspection

    The Public Utility Commission or the Commissioner of Public Service, the Directors for Public Advocacy and Regulated Utility Planning, and other employees of the Department authorized by the Commissioner may, during business hours, enter the offices, plants, exchanges, and stations or upon the land or lines of any company subject to supervision by the Department. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 15, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 30. Penalties; affidavit of compliance

    (a)(1) A person, company, or corporation subject to the supervision of the Commission or the Department of Public Service, who refuses the Commission or the Department of Public Service access to the books, accounts, or papers of such person, company, or corporation within this State, so far as may be necessary under the provisions of this title, or who fails, other than through negligence, to furnish any returns, reports, or information lawfully required by it, or who willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs it in the discharge of the duties imposed upon it, or who fails within a reasonable time to obey a final order or decree of the Commission, or who violates a provision of chapter 2, 7, 75, or 89 of this title, or a provision of section 231 or 248 of this title, or a rule of the Commission, shall be required to pay a civil penalty as provided in subsection (b) of this section after notice and opportunity for hearing.

    (2) A person who violates a provision of chapter 3 or 5 of this title, except for the provisions of section 231 or 248 of this title, shall be required to pay a civil penalty after notice and opportunity for hearing. If the Commission determines that the violation substantially harmed or might have substantially harmed the public health, safety, or welfare, the interests of utility customers, the environment, the reliability of utility service, or the financial stability of the company, the Commission may impose a civil penalty as provided in subsection (b) of this section. If the Commission determines that the violation did not cause or was not likely to cause such harm, the Commission may impose a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.00.

    (b) The Commission may impose a civil penalty under subsection (a) of this section of not more than $40,000.00. In the case of a continuing violation, an additional fine of not more than $10,000.00 per day may be imposed. In no event shall the total fine exceed the larger of:

    (1) $100,000.00; or

    (2) one-tenth of one percent of the gross Vermont revenues from regulated activity of the person, company, or corporation in the preceding year.

    (c) In determining the amount of a fine under subsection (a) of this section, the Commission may consider any of the following factors:

    (1) the extent that the violation harmed or might have harmed the public health, safety, or welfare, the environment, the reliability of utility service, or the other interests of utility customers;

    (2) whether the respondent knew or had reason to know the violation existed and whether the violation was intentional;

    (3) the economic benefit, if any, that could have been anticipated from an intentional or knowing violation;

    (4) the length of time that the violation existed;

    (5) the deterrent effect of the penalty;

    (6) the economic resources of the respondent;

    (7) the respondent's record of compliance; and

    (8) any other aggravating or mitigating circumstance.

    (d) After notice and an opportunity to be heard, the Commission may order any person, company, or corporation subject to the supervision of the Commission or the Department of Public Service who negligently fails to furnish any returns, reports, or information lawfully required by it to pay a civil penalty of not more than $10,000.00.

    (e) A person who knowingly, under oath, makes a false return or statement or who knowingly, under oath, when required by law, gives false information to the Commission, or the Department of Public Service, or who knowingly testifies falsely in any material matter before either of them, shall be deemed to have committed perjury and shall be punished accordingly.

    (f) Violations of the rules of procedure for the determination of cases heard by the Public Utility Commission shall not be subject to the provisions of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section.

    (g) At any time, the Commission may require a person, company, or corporation to file an affidavit under oath or affirmation that the person, company, or corporation or any facility or plant thereof is in compliance with the terms and conditions of an order, approval, certificate, or authorization issued under this title or rules adopted under this title. A request for an affidavit of compliance under this subdivision may be delivered by hand or by certified mail. Failure to file such an affidavit within the period prescribed by the Commission or the material misrepresentation of a fact in an affidavit shall be a violation subject to civil penalty under subdivision (a)(1) of this section and shall also be grounds for revocation or rescission of the order, approval, certificate, or authorization as to which the Commission required the affidavit.

    (h) In accordance with the process set forth in this subsection, the Department may issue an administrative citation to a person the Department believes after investigation violated section 246, 248, 248a, or 8010 of this title, any rule adopted pursuant to those sections, or any certificate of public good issued pursuant to those sections.

    (1) An administrative citation, whether draft or final, shall:

    (A) state each provision of statute and rule and each condition of a certificate of public good alleged to have been violated;

    (B) include a concise statement of the facts giving rise to the alleged violation and the evidence supporting the existence of those facts;

    (C) request that the person take the remedial action specified in the notice or pay a civil penalty of not more than $5,000.00 for the violation, or both; and

    (D) if remedial action is requested, state the reasons for seeking the action.

    (2) The Department shall initiate the process by issuing a draft administrative citation to the person and sending a copy to each municipality in which the person's facility is located, each adjoining property owner to the facility, the complainant if any, and, for alleged violations of the facility's certificate of public good, each party to the proceeding in which the certificate was issued.

    (A) At the time the draft citation is issued, the Department shall file a copy with the Commission and post the draft citation on its website.

    (B) Commencing with the date of issuance, the Department shall provide an opportunity of 30 days for public comment on the draft citation. The Department shall include information on this opportunity in the draft citation.

    (C) Once the public comment period closes, the Department:

    (i) Shall provide the person and the Commission with a copy of each comment received.

    (ii) Within 15 days of the close of the comment period, may file a revised draft citation with the Commission. The revised draft citation may be accompanied by a stipulation or agreed settlement between the person and the Department with a request for Commission approval.

    (D) The Commission may on its own initiative open a proceeding to investigate the violation alleged in the draft citation. The Commission shall take any such action within 25 days of the close of the public comment period, or the filing of a revised draft citation, whichever is later. Such a Commission proceeding shall supersede the draft citation.

    (3) If the Commission has not opened a proceeding pursuant to subdivision (2)(D) of this subsection, the Department may issue a final administrative citation to the person. Within 30 days of receipt of a final administrative citation, the person shall respond in one of the following ways:

    (A) Request a hearing before the Commission on the existence of the alleged violation, the proposed penalty, and the proposed remedial action.

    (B) Pay any civil penalty set forth in the notice and agree to undertake such remedial action as is set forth in the notice and submit to the Department for its approval a plan for compliance. In such a case, the final administrative citation shall be enforceable in the same manner as an order of the Commission.

    (C) Decline to contest the existence of the alleged violation and request a hearing on either the proposed penalty or remedial action, or both. When exercising this option, a person may agree to either the proposed penalty or remedial action and seek a hearing only on the penalty or action with which the person disagrees.

    (4) When a person requests a hearing under subdivision (3) of this subsection, the Commission shall open a proceeding and conduct a hearing in accordance with the provisions of this section on the alleged violation and such remedial action and penalty as are set forth in the notice. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of this section, a penalty under this subdivision (4) shall not exceed $5,000.00.

    (5) If a person pays the civil penalty set forth in a final administrative citation, then the Department shall be precluded from seeking and the Commission from imposing additional civil penalties for the same alleged violation unless the violation is continuing or is repeated.

    (6) If a person agrees to undertake the remedial action set forth in a final administrative citation, failure to undertake the action or comply with a compliance plan approved by the Department shall constitute a separate violation.

    (7) The Commission may approve disposition of a final administrative citation by stipulation or agreed settlement submitted before entry of a final order.

    (8) Penalties assessed under this subsection shall be deposited in the General Fund. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 16, eff. Feb. 1, 1981; 1995, No. 99 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2009, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § F29; 2011, No. 47, § 10, eff. May 25, 2011; 2013, No. 89, § 13; 2017, No. 53, § 8.)

  • § 31. Depositions

    The Commission or the Department of Public Service, their representatives, or any party in any investigation or hearing conducted by virtue of this title may cause the depositions of witnesses, wherever residing, to be taken in such manner and used for such purposes as the Supreme Court may by rule provide for taking depositions in civil actions in the Superior Court. (Added 1961, No. 263, § 10, eff. July 31, 1961; amended 1971, No. 185 (Adj. Sess.), § 212, eff. March 29, 1972; 1973, No. 193 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 9, 1974; 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 17, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 32. Injunction proceedings

    Whenever the Department of Public Service is of the opinion that a company subject to its supervision is failing or omitting or is about to fail or omit to do anything required of it by law or by order of the Commission or is doing anything or permitting anything or is about to do anything or to permit anything to be done contrary to or in violation of law or of any order of the Commission, the Department of Public Service may commence an action or proceeding in the Superior Court for the purpose of having such violations or threatened violations stopped and prevented by injunction. Such action or proceeding shall begin by a petition alleging the violation complained of and praying for appropriate relief by way of injunction. It shall thereupon be the duty of the court to specify the time, not exceeding 21 days after service of a copy of the petition, within which the company complained of must answer the petition, and the court may grant a temporary injunction in accordance with the laws of the State and rules in such case made and provided. The obtaining of a temporary injunction shall constitute a waiver by the State of its sovereign immunity to pay the person enjoined damages as such person may sustain by reason for such injunction if the court shall eventually decide that the State was not equitably entitled thereto and the State shall be liable to pay to the person enjoined such sums as would be payable by any other person in the premises. In case of default in answer, or after answer, the court shall immediately inquire into the facts and circumstances in such manner as the court directs without other or formal pleadings and without respect to any technical requirement. Such other persons or corporations as it shall seem to the court necessary or proper to join as parties in order to make its order, judgment, or writs effective may be joined as parties upon application of counsel to the Department. The final judgment in any such action or proceeding shall either dismiss the action or proceeding or direct that an injunction be issued as prayed for in the petition or in such modified form as the court may determine will afford appropriate relief. (Added 1961, No. 263, § 11, eff. July 31, 1961; amended 1979, No. 204 (Adj. Sess.), § 18, eff. Feb. 1, 1981.)

  • § 33. Joint hearings and investigations

    The Commission shall have full authority to make joint investigations, hold joint hearings within or outside the State of Vermont, and issue joint or concurrent orders in conjunction or concurrence with any official, board, commission, or agency of any state or of the United States, whether, in the holding of such investigations or hearings or in the making of such orders, the Commission shall function under agreements or compacts between states or under the concurrent power of states to regulate interstate commerce, or as an agency of the federal government, or otherwise. (Added 1969, No. 39.)

  • § 34. Public education on propane tank safety

    The General Assembly finds that there is a need for a coordinated public safety message on the normal storage and handling of propane tanks and fuel oil tanks, and for the recovery of propane tanks and fuel oil tanks that are displaced by a natural disaster, such as flooding. The Department of Public Service, the Division of Fire Safety, and the Agency of Natural Resources shall cooperate with relevant municipal, professional, and industry organizations to develop a variety of educational materials for distribution to the public to provide information on any special treatment of propane tanks that might be required in the event of a natural disaster, such as flooding. (Added 2011, No. 138 (Adj. Sess.), § 37, eff. May 14, 2012.)