The Executive Director is responsible for the overall management of the General Staff of the Utilities Division. Staff members in the Utilities Division have a wide variety of responsibilities which are accomplished through the seven Sections described below.
The Electric Utilities Section is responsible for investigating, analyzing, evaluating, and presenting testimony regarding issues and policies as they relate to the electric industry. In carrying out its responsibilities the Electric Utility Section analyzes the activities, operations, costs, and earnings of the four investor-owned electric utilities, eighteen rural distribution electric cooperatives, and one wholesale electric cooperative under the Commission’s jurisdiction. This group is also involved in evaluating the impact of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission initiatives and decisions on Arkansas utilities’ policies, rates, service reliability, and quality of service and providing information to the Commission regarding the costs and benefits of implementing such federal regulatory commission initiatives. In addition, Staff members are responsible for developing regulations and guidelines necessary to implement state and federal legislative mandates and for evaluating and monitoring the utilities implementation of the regulations and guidelines. Members of the Section also conduct compliance audits of utilities with approved automatic adjustment clauses, perform special project analyses, conduct general and special issue audits and investigations, and provide technical evaluations and responses to address inquiries from the public.
The Telecommunications and Quality of Service Section is responsible for certification, rate, financial, accounting, technical, and quality
of service matters specific to the telecommunications industry and is responsible for power line construction certification, technical, and
quality of service matters specific to the electric industry. Under Arkansas Code Annotated Section 23-17-411(f)(2), the Commission does
not have any jurisdiction to impose quality of service rules and standards on many telecommunications service providers in Arkansas.
Staff members interact with both investor-owned electric utilities, cooperative electric utilities, and the public. That interaction is necessary to be responsive to changes in the electric utility industry, introduction of new services, effects of federal regulatory actions and questions and service problems of the public. This Section conducts an ongoing evaluation of the quality of service provided by both investor-owned electric utilities and cooperative electric utilities in Arkansas. That evaluation measures the utilities’ performance against the Commission’s General Service Rules and Special Rules – Electric and is administrated to ensure that each electric utility is evaluated at least once every two years.
As noted above, the Commission does not have any jurisdiction to impose quality of service rules and standards on many local exchange carriers, interexchange carriers, and pay telephone service providers. Consequently, Staff members conduct evaluations of the quality of service of a limited number of telecommunications service providers pursuant to the Commission’s Telecommunications Providers such that each of the limited number of telecommunications service providers is evaluated at least once every two years.
The Natural Gas and Water Utilities Section primarily focuses on financial and rate matters concerning natural gas, water and sewer utilities. They must understand and evaluate the complex rate structures and the earnings requirements of the three natural gas utilities, four water utilities, and one sewer utilities currently under the Commission’s jurisdiction. They also conduct compliance audits for utilities with approved automatic adjustment clauses.
The Pipeline Safety Office ensures that natural gas operators are in compliance with the Arkansas Gas Pipeline Code. Compliance is determined through periodic inspections of safety, corrosion, and leakage control which are performed on 30 intra-state natural gas operators and 181 operators covering 331 master-metered gas systems.
This Section performs various economic analyses, evaluates billing determinants, cost allocation and rate design issues, participates in all rate case proceedings, conducts focused investigations, and develops Staff's position on various regulatory issues, including conservation programs. Staff personnel specialize in utility industries as well as economic, financial, and accounting matters. Each member of the Section presents recommendations to the Commission though pre-filed and oral expert testimony, and cross-examinations during public hearings.
The Financial Analysis Section performs various financial and economic analyses, evaluates depreciation rates and capital recovery issues, assesses the required rate of return and other financing issues for jurisdictional utilities, participates in all rate case proceedings and reviews of earnings levels, conducts focused investigations, and develops Staff’s position on various regulatory issues, including nuclear decommissioning, mergers, stranded costs, transition costs and other electric restructuring issues. Staff personnel specialize in utility industries as well as economic, financial, and accounting matters. Each member of the Section presents recommendations to the Commission through pre-filed and oral expert testimony, and cross-examinations during public hearings.
The Audits Section participates in all rate case proceedings. Section staff members conduct extensive reviews, audits, and analyses of rate case applications; conduct ongoing reviews of the earnings levels of public utilities; evaluate transactions between regulated utility companies and their affiliates; and conduct compliance audits.
Attorneys on the General Staff perform a dual function at the Commission. They represent the Staff in proceedings before the Commission and represent the Commission in matters and proceedings outside the Commission, such as appellate cases and appearances before federal regulatory commissions. Additionally, Legal Section attorneys act as Commission hearing officers in certain designated dockets.
The Consumer Services Section works with customers to answer questions and resolve complaints about the rates and services of
regulated utilities. Staff members review all complaints for compliance with APSC rules and approved utility tariffs and act as
liaisons with utilities in resolving those complaints. This Section also provides educational brochures and materials and makes
group presentations as needed.
Another responsibility of the Consumer Services Section is customer service audits of jurisdictional utility companies. The audits consist of a thorough review of utility policies and procedures. The objective is the identification of opportunities for improvements, and recommendations are often made to ensure compliance with Commission Rules.