The Public Counsel Section, established in 1983, represents residential and small business customers of state regulated electric, natural gas, and telecommunications utilities in Washington State. These utilities include Puget Sound Energy (formerly Puget Power and Washington Natural Gas), Avista (formerly Washington Water Power), Pacific Power, Cascade Natural Gas, Northwest Natural Gas, and telecommunications companies such as CenturyLink (formerly Qwest and US West), and Frontier (formerly Verizon and GTE). Public Counsel is not involved with publicly owned utilities such as Seattle City Light and Snohomish Public Utility District, which are not regulated by the state. Public Counsel also has statutory authority to represent the public on transportation issues before the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission, including issues that have a major impact on public safety.
Public Counsel advocates on behalf of ratepayers in cases before the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) involving utility rates, mergers, energy efficiency programs, service quality, and other policy matters. Public Counsel’s advocacy work includes researching utility regulation issues and determining what action should be taken on behalf of the public. In a major rate case or merger, Public Counsel investigates the Company’s request and retains experts to analyze areas such as accounting, economics, finance, engineering, rate spread/rate design, and service quality. In a rate case or merger evidentiary hearing, Public Counsel will cross-examine other parties’ expert witnesses, present its own witnesses, and file legal briefs.
Representing the citizens in utility matters means advocating for the interests of consumers in a variety of ways. In addition to participating as a statutory party in major rate and merger cases, Public Counsel may also present policy recommendations in UTC rulemakings or at bi-weekly UTC business meetings. Public Counsel participates in technical policy and advisory groups; files court appeals of Commission decisions; and may provide information to the Legislature and other policymakers.
Public Counsel is not staffed to respond to individual complaints or inquiries. We encourage consumers in need of this type of specific assistance (e.g., a specific service or billing complaint) to contact the UTC's Consumer Protection and Communications Section. They can be reached by phone at 1-888-333-WUTC (9882), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing at UTC at P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA 98504.
Public Counsel is a member of the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.