The Public Counsel Unit of the Washington Attorney General’s Office represents customers of state-regulated, investor-owned utility companies in matters before the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), state courts, and the legislature. Our guiding mission is to ensure that regulated utilities charge fair and reasonable rates and provide safe and reliable service. Regulated utilities include telecommunications companies, such as CenturyLink and Frontier; electric and gas companies, such as Puget Sound Energy, Avista Utilities, and PacifiCorp; and gas companies such as Northwest Natural and Cascade Natural Gas. The Public Counsel Unit also participates, or is authorized by statute to participate, in water, transportation, and pipeline matters before the WUTC. Our team is comprised of two attorneys, three regulatory analysts, and two legal assistants.
Background on Public Counsel
The legislature directed the AGO to “represent and appear for the people of the state of Washington” in regulatory matters under Title 80 and 81 RCW. (RCW 80.01.100, 80.04.510, and 81.04.500.) The Public Counsel Unit represents residential and small business customers of state-regulated electric, natural gas, and telecommunications utilities operating in Washington. Public Counsel does not participate in matters involving publicly‑owned utilities, such as Seattle City Light or the Snohomish Public Utility District, because publicly-owned utilities are not regulated by the state. Public Counsel has statutory authority to represent the public on transportation, pipeline, and water issues before the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission, including issues that have a major impact on public safety.
With respect to utilities, Public Counsel advocates on behalf of customers in cases before the WUTC involving utility rates, mergers and acquisitions, energy efficiency programs, service quality, and other policy matters. If a regulated utility seeks to change the rates charged to customers, Public Counsel investigates the Company’s request and often retains expert witnesses to analyze the requested rate adjustment. Public Counsel will file the written testimony of its expert witnesses, cross-examine other parties’ expert witnesses, and file legal briefs on behalf of customers.
Public Counsel participates in WUTC rulemakings by commenting on the agency’s draft rules and providing policy recommendations. Public Counsel also participates in technical policy and advisory groups formed by the UTC or the utilities, seeks judicial review of Commission decisions when appropriate, and may provide guidance to the Legislature and other policymakers.
Public Counsel is not staffed to respond to individual complaints or inquiries. We encourage consumers in need of specific assistance (e.g., a specific service or billing complaint) to contact the WUTC'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.
Citizen Advisory Committee
When former Attorney General Ken Eikenberry formed Public Counsel in 1983, he also created the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) to engage important segments of the public. Members of the CAC includes small business, low income, aging and long-term care, environmental, labor, and agriculture groups, and they represent different interests throughout the state. The CAC provides information to Public Counsel regarding their interests and concerns. The CAC meets with Public Counsel quarterly to discuss UTC issues affecting the sectors represented.
If your organization is interested in the CAC’s work, please send an email to email@example.com.