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CHAPTER 216A. PUBLIC UTILITIES REGULATORS

Table of Sections
Section Headnote
216A.01 DEPARTMENT AND COMMISSION; POWERS AND DUTIES.
216A.02 DEFINITIONS.
216A.03 PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION.
216A.035 CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
216A.036 EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS; CIVIL PENALTY.
216A.037 EX PARTE COMMUNICATIONS; CODE OF CONDUCT; RULES.
216A.04 EXECUTIVE SECRETARY; COMMISSION EMPLOYEES.
216A.05 COMMISSION FUNCTIONS AND POWERS.
216A.06 [Repealed, 1Sp2001 c 4 art 6 s 76]
216A.07 COMMISSIONER POWERS AND DUTIES.
216A.08 CONTINUATION OF RULES OF PUBLIC SERVICE DEPARTMENT.
216A.085 [Repealed, 2011 c 97 s 34]
216A.09 ACTIONS.
216A.095 COOPERATION BETWEEN DEPARTMENT AND COMMISSION.
216A.10 [Renumbered 174.60]
216A.11 [Renumbered 174.61]
216A.12 [Renumbered 174.62]
216A.13 [Renumbered 174.63]

216A.01 DEPARTMENT AND COMMISSION; POWERS AND DUTIES.

The Department of Commerce shall have and possess all of the rights and powers and perform all of the duties vested in it by this chapter. The Public Utilities Commission shall have and possess all of the rights and powers and perform all of the duties vested in it by this chapter and those formerly vested by law in the Railroad and Warehouse Commission.

216A.02 DEFINITIONS.

Subdivision 1.Scope.

For the purposes of this chapter, the terms defined in this section have the meanings given them.

Subd. 2.Legislative function.

"Legislative function" means the establishment and promulgation of all rules, orders and directives of general or particular applicability, governing the conduct of the regulated persons or businesses, together with such investigative procedures as are incident thereto and all other valid acts and procedures which are historically or functionally legislative in character.

Subd. 3.Administrative function.

"Administrative function" means all duties and procedures concerning the execution and enforcement of the laws, rules, orders, directives, duties, and obligations imposed for the control and government of the persons or businesses regulated, together with investigative activities incident thereto and procedures inherently administrative or executive in character.

Subd. 4.Quasi-judicial function.

"Quasi-judicial function" means the promulgation of all orders and directives of particular applicability governing the conduct of the regulated persons or businesses, together with procedures inherently judicial.

216A.03 PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION.

Subdivision 1.Members.

The Public Utilities Commission shall consist of five members. The terms of members shall be six years and until their successors have been appointed and qualified. Each commissioner shall be appointed by the governor by and with the advice and consent of the senate. Not more than three commissioners shall belong to the same political party. At least one commissioner must have been domiciled at the time of appointment outside the seven-county metropolitan area. If the membership of the commission after July 31, 1986, does not consist of at least one member domiciled at the time of appointment outside the seven-county metropolitan area, the membership shall conform to this requirement following normal attrition of the present commissioners. The governor when selecting commissioners shall give consideration to persons learned in the law or persons who have engaged in the profession of engineering, public accounting, property and utility valuation, finance, physical or natural sciences, production agriculture, or natural resources as well as being representative of the general public.

For purposes of this subdivision, "seven-county metropolitan area" means Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington Counties.

Subd. 1a.Removal; vacancy.

The removal of members, and filling of vacancies on the commission shall be as provided in section 15.0575.

Subd. 2.

[Repealed, 1976 c 134 s 79]

Subd. 3.Chair.

The governor shall select one of the commissioners to serve as the chair for a term concurrent with that of the governor.

If a vacancy occurs in the position of chair, the governor shall select a new chair to complete the unexpired term.

Subd. 3a.Powers and duties of chair.

The chair shall be the principal executive officer of the commission and shall preside at meetings of the commission. The chair shall organize the work of the commission and may make assignments to commission members, appoint committees and give direction to the commission staff through the executive secretary subject to the approval of the commission.

Subd. 4.Oath.

Before entering upon the duties of office, each commissioner shall take and file with the secretary of state the following oath:

"I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, the constitution of this state; that I will faithfully discharge my duties as commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission according to the best of my ability; and that I am not in the employ of or holding any official relation to or pecuniarily interested in any individual proprietorship, firm, copartnership, corporation or association, the activities of which are wholly or partially subject to regulation by the Public Utilities Commission; nor do I serve on or under any committee of any political party."

Subd. 5.Quorum.

A majority of the commission shall constitute a quorum, and the act or decision of a majority of commissioners present, if at least a quorum is present, shall be the act or decision of the commission. If a vacancy exists on the commission a majority of the remaining commissioners constitutes a quorum.

Subd. 6.Record of proceedings.

An audio magnetic or audio electronic recording device shall be used to keep a record of all proceedings before the commission.

Subd. 6a.Hearing reporter.

The commission may delegate to the executive secretary authority to require hearing reporter services. The cost of hearing reporter services must be borne by the utility, telephone company, or telecommunications carrier that is the subject of the proceeding. If more than one company is the subject of a proceeding, the commission or, if the commission so delegates, the executive secretary, shall determine how the hearing reporter costs are to be allocated for the proceeding.

Subd. 7.Filing approved without hearing.

A filing with the commission may be deemed approved by the commission after 60 days of filing, unless the commission, a commissioner, or any other person requests the filing be set aside for action by the commission. The commission may designate, by standing order, categories or types of filings that are eligible for approval under this subdivision. Complaint filings, petitions for rulemakings, or petitions to increase rates are not eligible for designation. The commission must publish a weekly notice of the filings that are approved without other action by the commission, and shall issue a written order approving the filing upon passage of the 60-day term. Orders approved under this subdivision are subject to reconsideration, as provided in section 216B.27 or the commission's rules of practice and procedure, and nothing in this subdivision affects the rights of any entity under section 216B.17 or 237.081.

Subd. 8.Delegations to commission subcommittees.

(a) The commission may create and appoint members to standing or ad hoc subcommittees of the commission consisting of at least one commissioner. The commission, at a regularly scheduled agenda hearing, may delegate any of the commission's legislative, administrative, or quasi-judicial functions, as defined in section 216A.02, to a subcommittee of the commission.

(b) Upon objection by a party, a participant, or a commissioner, a decision by a subcommittee must be referred to the full commission. Subcommittee decisions for which no objection is filed with the commission within ten days from the date of receipt of the written decision of the subcommittee are deemed decisions of the full commission. If referred to the full commission, the full commission may rely on the record developed by the subcommittee but shall treat the subcommittee decision as advisory.

(c) In either their initial or reply filings with the commission, a party or a participant may request that the commission not delegate the proceeding to a commission subcommittee. The request must be granted.

(d) For the purposes of this subdivision:

(1) a "party" means a person by or against whom a proceeding before the commission is commenced or a person permitted to intervene in a proceeding under this chapter; and

(2) a "participant" means a person who files comments or appears to present views without becoming a party in a proceeding, other than public hearings held in contested cases and other commission proceedings conducted to receive general public comments.

Subd. 9.Lead commissioner; designation, powers, duties.

The commission may designate a commissioner to be the lead commissioner for a docket, a type of docket, or for a particular subject area. The commission shall allow interested persons to be heard on a proposed designation prior to making the designation. The lead commissioner is authorized to exercise the commission's authority to develop an evidentiary record for a proceeding, including holding hearings and requesting written or oral comments. At the request of the commission, the lead commissioner shall provide the commission and the service list for the proceeding with a written summary of the evidentiary record developed by the lead commissioner for the case, including any recommendations of the commissioner. Any findings of fact, conclusions of law, or recommendations of the lead commissioner are advisory only and are not binding on the commission. The commission may delegate its authority to designate lead commissioners to the chair. Nothing in this subdivision affects a person's opportunity to request a contested case proceeding under chapter 14.

216A.035 CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

(a) No person, while a member of the Public Utilities Commission, while acting as executive secretary of the commission, or while employed in a professional capacity by the commission, shall receive any income, other than dividends or other earnings from a mutual fund or trust if these earnings do not constitute a significant portion of the person's income, directly or indirectly from any public utility or other organization subject to regulation by the commission.

(b) No person is eligible to be appointed as a member of the commission if the person has been employed with an entity, or an affiliated company of an entity, that is subject to rate regulation by the commission within one year from the date when the person's term on the commission will begin.

(c) No person who is an employee of the Department of Commerce shall participate in any manner in any decision or action of the commission where that person has a direct or indirect financial interest. Each commissioner or employee of the department who is in the general professional, supervisory, or technical units established in section 179A.10 or who is a professional, supervisory, or technical employee defined as confidential in section 179A.03, subdivision 4, or who is a management classification employee and whose duties are related to public utility, telephone company, or telecommunications company regulation shall report to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board annually before April 15 any interest in an industry or business regulated by the commission. Each commissioner shall file a statement of economic interest as required by section 10A.09 with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board and the Public Utilities Commission before taking office. The statement of economic interest must state any interest that the commissioner has in an industry or business regulated by the commission.

(d) A professional employee of the commission or department must immediately disclose to the commission or to the commissioner of the department, respectively, any communication, direct or indirect, with a person who is a party to a pending proceeding before the commission regarding future benefits, compensation, or employment to be received from that person.

216A.036 EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS; CIVIL PENALTY.

(a) A person who serves as (1) a commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission, (2) commissioner of commerce, or (3) deputy commissioner of commerce, shall not, while employed with or within one year after leaving the commission or department, accept employment with, receive compensation directly or indirectly from, or enter into a contractual relationship with an entity, or an affiliated company of an entity, that is subject to rate regulation by the commission.

(b) An entity or an affiliated company of an entity that is subject to rate regulation by the commission, or a person acting on behalf of the entity, shall not negotiate or offer to employ or compensate a commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission, the commissioner of commerce, or the deputy commissioner of commerce, while the person is so employed or within one year after the person leaves that employment.

(c) For the purposes of this section, "affiliated company" means a company that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with an entity subject to rate regulation by the commission.

(d) A person who violates this section is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for each violation. The attorney general may bring an action in district court to collect the penalties provided in this section.

216A.037 EX PARTE COMMUNICATIONS; CODE OF CONDUCT; RULES.

Subdivision 1.Ex parte communications prohibitions; rules.

(a) The commission shall adopt rules under chapter 14 prescribing permissible and impermissible ex parte communications. The ex parte rules may prohibit only ex parte communications, directly or indirectly, between a commissioner and a participant or party under the commission's rules of practice and procedure relating to:

(1) a material issue during a pending contested case proceeding;

(2) a material issue in a rulemaking proceeding after the beginning of commission deliberations;

(3) a material issue in a disputed formal petition; and

(4) any other communication impermissible by law.

(b) The commission may apply ex parte prohibitions, prospectively and after notice to affected parties, to other commission proceedings as the commission deems necessary.

(c) A contested case is pending from the time the commission refers the matter to the Office of Administrative Hearings until the commission has issued its final order, and the time to petition for reconsideration has expired or the commission has issued an order finally disposing an application for reconsideration, whichever is later.

Subd. 2.Conflict-of-interest communications prohibited.

A commissioner shall not communicate, directly or indirectly, with a person or entity who is a party to a pending proceeding before the commission regarding past or future benefits or compensation to be received from that person or entity. The commission may dismiss a proceeding if an applicant, petitioner, or complainant violates this subdivision.

Subd. 3.Code of conduct rules.

Except as limited by subdivision 1, the commission shall adopt rules prescribing a code of conduct for commissioners and employees of the commission. The code of conduct must include standards to preserve the quasi-judicial function of the commission.

Subd. 4.Complaint procedure; hearing; sanctions.

(a) Any person seeking sanctions for alleged violations of the rules adopted under this section may file a complaint with the commission.

(b) A complaint seeking sanctions must include the following information: the name and address of the complainant; the name and address of complainant's counsel, if any; the name and address of each person alleged to have violated the ex parte prohibition (respondents); the name and address of each respondent's counsel, if known; the facts constituting the alleged violation; and the sanctions sought by the complainant.

(c) A complaint filed under this section must be filed with the commission and mailed to each respondent, the department, the Office of the Attorney General, and all persons on the commission's service list for the proceeding.

(d) Within seven days of service of the complaint, a respondent shall file an answer with the commission and serve it on the complainant, the department, the Office of the Attorney General, and all persons on the commission's service list for the proceeding.

(e) The commission shall refer the complaint and any reply to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

(f) The administrative law judge assigned to the ex parte complaint proceeding by the Office of Administrative Hearings shall conduct a hearing investigation and shall issue a report within 30 days after the matter is referred. If the administrative law judge determines that the report cannot be properly completed within that time period, the judge shall report that fact to the commission within the 30-day period and shall file a final report within a reasonable time thereafter, no later than 60 days after the referral to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

(g) The report of the administrative law judge shall describe the relevant facts of the case and shall set forth the judge's findings as to whether ex parte violations occurred. The findings and decisions of the judge as to whether ex parte violations have occurred are binding on the commission. The judge shall also discuss and make recommendations regarding the imposition of sanctions in accordance with paragraph (h). The judge shall include in the report a discussion of the recusal of any commissioner or the removal of decision-making personnel from this case.

(h) In the report under paragraph (g), the administrative law judge may only recommend that the commission impose one of the following sanctions if the judge finds that the condition specified for the sanction is met:

(1) dismiss the proceeding if the prohibited ex parte communication has so prejudiced the proceeding that the commission cannot consider it impartially;

(2) issue an adverse ruling on a pending issue that is the subject of the prohibited ex parte communication if other parties are prejudiced by the prohibited ex parte communication;

(3) strike evidence or pleadings if the evidence or pleadings are tainted by the prohibited ex parte communication; or

(4) issue a public statement of censure, if the prohibited ex parte communication is determined to be part of a continuing pattern of improper ex parte communication or if the prohibited ex parte violation consists of a single prohibited communication and mitigating circumstances exist that:

(i) negate the need for a more severe sanction;

(ii) do not prejudice the proceeding to the extent that the commission is unable to consider it impartially;

(iii) do not prejudice other parties; or

(iv) do not taint the evidence or pleadings.

(i) If the administrative law judge finds the complainant's allegation of an ex parte violation was interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of the proceeding, the judge may recommend that the commission issue an appropriate sanction against the complainant.

216A.04 EXECUTIVE SECRETARY; COMMISSION EMPLOYEES.

Subdivision 1.Selection of executive secretary.

The commission shall appoint an executive secretary, not a member, who shall be in the unclassified service of the state and shall serve at the pleasure of the commission. The executive secretary shall take, subscribe, and file an oath similar to that required of the commissioners, and shall be subject to the same disqualifications as commissioners.

Subd. 1a.Powers and duties of executive secretary.

The executive secretary shall:

(1) cause to be kept full and correct records of all transactions and proceedings of the commission;

(2) appoint, subject to chapter 43A and the approval of the commission, all other classified employees of the commission and supervise and direct their activities;

(3) have custody of the seal of the commission;

(4) serve as the administrative officer of the commission with responsibility for personnel, budget and other administrative details related to the work of the commission or as required by state law;

(5) prepare orders, reports, and other materials as assigned by the commission and recommend to the commission such measures as may be appropriate to achieve the objectives of the commission;

(6) advise the commission of its financial position and recommend a budget for its approval; and

(7) perform other duties as the commission directs.

Subd. 2.Acting secretary.

The commission may designate any responsible employee to serve as acting secretary in the absence of the secretary.

Subd. 3.Officers and employees.

The commission may establish other positions in the unclassified service if the positions meet the criteria of section 43A.08, subdivision 1a, clauses (1) to (7). The commission may employ other persons as may be necessary to carry out its functions.

Subd. 4.Transcripts of proceedings.

Hearing reporters may provide transcripts of proceedings before the commission to persons requesting transcripts who pay a reasonable charge therefor to the reporter. The amount of the charge shall be fixed by the commission and retained by the reporter, any other law to the contrary notwithstanding.

216A.05 COMMISSION FUNCTIONS AND POWERS.

Subdivision 1.Legislative and quasi-judicial functions.

The functions of the commission shall be legislative and quasi-judicial in nature. It may make such investigations and determinations, hold such hearings, prescribe such rules, and issue such orders with respect to the control and conduct of the businesses coming within its jurisdiction as the legislature itself might make but only as it shall from time to time authorize. It may adjudicate all proceedings brought before it in which the violation of any law or rule administered by the Department of Commerce is alleged.

Subd. 2.Powers generally.

The commission shall, to the extent prescribed by law:

(1) investigate the management of all warehouse operators and telegraph companies, the manner in which their businesses are conducted and the adequacies of the services which they are affording to the public, and make all appropriate orders relating to the continuation, termination, or modification of all services and facilities with a view to properly promoting the security and convenience of the public;

(2) review and ascertain the reasonableness of tariffs of rates, fares, and charges, or any part or classification thereof, and prescribe the form and manner of filing, posting, and publication thereof;

(3) prescribe uniform systems of keeping and rendering accounts and the time within which such systems shall be adopted;

(4) order the issuance of franchises, permits or certificates of convenience and necessity.

Subd. 3.Manner of fact-finding.

The commission may:

(1) subpoena, in the same manner a district court summons is served, at such time and place as it may designate, any books, papers, or accounts kept by any regulated business within or without the state, or compel production of verified copies in lieu thereof;

(2) prepare all forms or blanks for the purpose of obtaining information which it may deem necessary or useful in the proper exercise of its authority and duties in connection with regulated businesses, and prescribe the time and manner within which such blanks and forms shall be completed and filed with it;

(3) inspect, at all reasonable times, and copy the books, records, memoranda, correspondence, or other documents and records of any business under its jurisdiction;

(4) examine, under oath, any officer, agent, or employee thereof in relation to its business and affairs.

Subd. 4.Performance of commission functions.

The commission shall exercise each and every legislative function imposed by law on it.

Subd. 5.Hearing upon petition.

With respect to those matters within its jurisdiction the commission shall receive, hear, and determine all petitions filed with it in accordance with the rules of practice and procedure promulgated by the commission, and may investigate, hold hearings, and make determinations upon its own motion to the same extent, and in every instance, in which it may do so upon petition.

Subd. 6.Operation with regard to federal law.

The commission is authorized:

(1) to cooperate with all federal agencies for the purpose of harmonizing state and federal regulations within the state to the extent and in the manner deemed advisable;

(2) to conduct joint hearings with any federal agency or commission within or without the state and participate in any proceedings before any federal agency or commission when it considers such participation advisable and in the interest of the people of this state;

(3) to nominate members to any joint board as provided by federal acts.

216A.06 [Repealed, 1Sp2001 c 4 art 6 s 76]

216A.07 COMMISSIONER POWERS AND DUTIES.

Subdivision 1.Commissioner duties.

The commissioner of commerce has all the rights and powers and shall perform all the duties set forth in this chapter. The commissioner may:

(1) prepare all forms or blanks for the purpose of obtaining information which the commissioner may deem necessary or useful in the proper exercise of the authority and duties of the commissioner in connection with regulated businesses;

(2) prescribe the time and manner within which forms or blanks shall be filed with the department;

(3) inspect at all reasonable times, and copy the books, records, memoranda, and correspondence or other documents and records of any person relating to any regulated business; and

(4) cause the deposition to be taken of any person concerning the business and affairs of any business regulated by the department. Information sought through said deposition shall be for a lawfully authorized purpose and shall be relevant and material to the investigation or hearing before the commission. Information obtained from said deposition shall be used by the department only for a lawfully authorized purpose and pursuant to powers and responsibilities conferred upon the department. Said deposition is to be taken in the manner prescribed by law for taking depositions in civil actions in the district court.

Subd. 2.Enforcement.

The commissioner is responsible for the enforcement of chapters 216A, 216B and 237 and the orders of the commission issued pursuant to those chapters.

Subd. 3.Intervention in commission proceeding.

The commissioner may intervene as a party in all proceedings before the commission. When intervening in gas or electric hearings, the commissioner shall prepare and defend testimony designed to encourage energy conservation improvements as defined in section 216B.241. The attorney general shall act as counsel in the proceedings.

Subd. 3a.Regional and national duties.

The Department of Commerce has the duty and power to represent the interests of Minnesota residents, businesses, and governments before bodies and agencies outside the state that make, interpret, or implement regional, national, and international energy policy and that regulate and implement regional or national energy planning or infrastructure development. This subdivision does not limit regional, national, or international activities of the Public Utilities Commission.

Subd. 4.Investigation.

The commissioner may, on the commissioner's own initiative, investigate any matter subject to the jurisdiction of the department or commission.

Subd. 5.Rulemaking.

The commissioner shall make substantive and procedural rules to implement the provisions of this chapter and chapters 216B and 237. Rules adopted under this authority shall be promulgated pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act and shall have the force and effect of law.

Subd. 6.Mission; efficiency; legislative report, recommendations.

It is part of the department's mission that within the department's resources the commissioner shall endeavor to:

(1) prevent the waste or unnecessary spending of public money;

(2) use innovative fiscal and human resource practices to manage the state's resources and operate the department as efficiently as possible;

(3) coordinate the department's activities wherever appropriate with the activities of other governmental agencies;

(4) use technology where appropriate to increase agency productivity, improve customer service, increase public access to information about government, and increase public participation in the business of government;

(5) utilize constructive and cooperative labor-management practices to the extent otherwise required by chapters 43A and 179A;

(6) report to the legislature on the performance of agency operations and the accomplishment of agency goals in the agency's biennial budget according to section 16A.10, subdivision 1; and

(7) recommend to the legislature appropriate changes in law necessary to carry out the mission and improve the performance of the department.

216A.08 CONTINUATION OF RULES OF PUBLIC SERVICE DEPARTMENT.

All valid rules, orders, and directives heretofore enforced, issued, or promulgated by the Public Service Department under authority of chapter 216, 216A, 216B, 216C, 218, 219, 221, 222, 237, 238, or 239 shall remain and continue in force and effect until repealed, modified, or superseded by duly authorized rules, orders, or directives of the Public Utilities Commission, the commissioner of transportation, or the commissioner of commerce.

216A.085 [Repealed, 2011 c 97 s 34]

216A.09 ACTIONS.

The commission may sue or be sued in its own name.

History:

1967 c 864 s 9

216A.095 COOPERATION BETWEEN DEPARTMENT AND COMMISSION.

Nothing in this chapter prevents the department or the commission from entering into agreements with each other or with other agencies to coordinate and share services, to conduct joint projects or investigations on matters within the authority and jurisdiction of the parties thereto, or to temporarily assign staff to projects requested by each other or by other agencies. The cooperative agreements may provide for the sharing of costs between the parties thereto or the reimbursement of the department or commission operating budget for expenditures made on behalf of the department or commission or agency. No cooperative effort shall interfere with the independence and integrity of either the commission or the department or any other agency that is a party.

History:

1980 c 614 s 112

216A.10 [Renumbered 174.60]
216A.11 [Renumbered 174.61]
216A.12 [Renumbered 174.62]
216A.13 [Renumbered 174.63]