The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has been serving the evolving needs of utilities and the public for more than 80 years. The roles and responsibilities of the PUC have continued to shift over the years as legislators amended the Public Utility Code, and as the utility marketplace and technology evolved.
Today, the PUC oversees nearly 7,000 entities that provide in-state electricity, natural gas, pipeline, motor carrier, rail, telecommunications and water and wastewater services.
1907: The Beginning of a Legacy of Promise
In 1907, the state General Assembly created the Pennsylvania State Railroad Commission as the Commonwealth’s first public utility regulatory agency and precursor to today's PUC. It held jurisdiction over railroad, streetcar and telegraph corporations.
The Railroad Commission was abolished and replaced in 1913 with the seven-member Pennsylvania Public Service Commission (PSC), which was given the authority to regulate all public utilities. Thus began the legacy of balancing the interests of public service companies and the welfare of the public.
With Act 43 of 1937, the General Assembly replaced the Public Service Commission with the Public Utility Commission. It's roles was to better supervise and regulate all public utilities doing business in the Commonwealth.
Throughout the 1940s, the PUC had to deal with rationing of power during World War II. The it needed to keep up with rapid population growth and the increasing demand for utility service in rural and suburban areas after the war.
The PUC dealt with the development of nuclear electricity generation as well as federal legislation and inflation driving electric price escalation throughout the 1970s.
Helen B. O’Bannon became the first female Commissioner in 1975.
Acts 215 and 216 of 1976 made a number of changes to the PUC including moving Commissioners from part-time to full-time positions.
In 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant experienced a partial reactor meltdown. The PUC was tasked with ensuring the cost of the accident was not passed down to consumers or the taxpayers.
With Act 114 of 1986, the PUC added the Office of Trial Staff from the Law Bureau Rates Division which included attorneys to represent the public interest in all electric, natural gas, telephone, water and other fixed utility rate
The Commission oversaw the associated cases and access charge proceedings needed to implement the federal breakup of AT&T in 1984.
In 1990, the PUC implemented the Telecommunications
Relay Service, which allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled to communicate with anyone using a regular telephone. Pennsylvania was one of the first states to offer this service.
The PUC began working toward providing broadband internet service to all Pennsylvanians in 1993.
The PUC's Report and Recommendation on Electric Competition helped lead to the creation of the 1996 Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act.
In 1997, the Distribution System Improvement Charge allowed water companies to use a PUC-approved surcharge on customers’ bills to fund needed infrastructure upgrades.
In 1999, the Natural Gas Choice and Competition Act became law.
The PUC joined other state and federal agencies in preparing for “Y2K” to make the digital calendar transition from Dec. 20, 1999, to Jan. 1, 2000.
In 2000, the PUC moved its offices from the Capitol Complex’s North Office Building to the new Commonwealth Keystone Building.
In 2002, in the wake of the Enron collapse, the PUC reviewed corporate governance controls and auditing practices of the 27 major Pennsylvania utilities.
In 2002, the Commission launched its Prepare Now campaign to help prepare consumers for higher winter energy prices.
The PUC helped ensure at least 58% of Pennsylvania telephone lines were broadband capable as of 2004.
In 2008, Act 129 required electric distribution companies to meet consumption reduction benchmarks in order to reduce the cost of electric in Pennsylvania.
In 2010, the Commission launched PAPowerSwitch.com to allow customers to shop online for an electric supplier.
Act 127 (Pipeline Act) of 2011 expand the Commission’s authority to enforce the federal pipeline safety laws.
In 2012, the Public Utility Commission celebrated 75 years of dedicated service to utilities and consumers.
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