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For Immediate Release: April 10, 2014
Contact: Robert J. Thormeyer, 202-898-9382, rthormeyer@naruc.org

State Commissions Remain Focused on Safe, Resilient Infrastructure, NARUC Tells Congress

WASHINGTON—The nation’s State utility regulators are focused on ensuring reliable and resilient utility services, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Colette D. Honorable of Arkansas told Congress today.

In testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, President Honorable said the electric utility industry faces a multitude of challenges every day and manages to keep the lights on almost 100 percent of the time. The challenges, though, are clearly changing, she said.

“From an economic regulatory perspective, we view all of these vulnerabilities through the broad lens of ‘resilience’,” President Honorable said. “In these days of seemingly more frequent severe weather, concerns over cyber and physical security, and general day-to-day operation of the transmission system, providing reliable service may not be enough anymore.”

Although the utilities themselves own and operate the system—and therefore know it best—State commissioners play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of utility services, she said.

“In essence, the State commissions determine who pays, how much they pay, and for what they are paying,” President Honorable said. “This responsibility is all the more important in times of economic downturn, where in some cases people must decide whether to pay an electric bill or buy medicine. State commissioners take this responsibility seriously as it is solely our responsibility and not within federal jurisdiction. My colleagues and I must weigh the cost of every proposed improvement to those systems under our jurisdiction against the risks and benefits of how these investments will impact consumers.”

NARUC, she said, is equipping its members to lead through various trainings, papers, education, and workshops. By this summer, NARUC staff will have held cyber security trainings in 35 States, she noted. The staff has also released two well-received papers dealing with electricity resilience. For State commissioners, a risk-based approach to resilience investments will ensure that ratepayer money is spent on the elements of the system that need it the most, she added.

“State commissions seek investments that deliver the best system improvements and ratepayer value,” she said. “To do so, a risk-based approach is preferred. As utilities seek cost-recovery for resilience investments, we need them to prioritize what aspects of their systems are the most vulnerable so we can put ratepayer money where it is most needed first. Whether these investments address physical or cyber security, they must prudently meet the prevailing expectations of reliability and affordability for the ratepayer.”

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NARUC is a non-profit organization founded in 1889 whose members include the governmental agencies that are engaged in the regulation of utilities and carriers in the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. NARUC's member agencies regulate telecommunications, energy, and water utilities. NARUC represents the interests of State public utility commissions before the three branches of the Federal government.

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