Section 11E: Public utilities; office of ratepayer advocacy; intervention in legal proceedings on behalf of consumers; expenditure of funds; expert or consultant; information requests
Section 11E. (a) There shall be within the office of the attorney general, an office of ratepayer advocacy. The attorney general, through the office of ratepayer advocacy, may intervene, appear and participate in administrative, regulatory, or judicial proceedings on behalf of any group of consumers in connection with any matter involving rates, charges, prices and tariffs of an electric company, water company, gas company, generator, transmission company, telephone company and telegraph company doing business in the commonwealth and subject to the jurisdiction of the department of public utilities or the department of telecommunications and cable. In addition, the attorney general may intervene, appear and participate in federal energy regulatory commission or other federal energy proceedings on behalf of ratepayers in the commonwealth.
The office of the ratepayer advocacy shall be under the direction of an assistant attorney general appointed under section 2. The assistant attorney general shall devote his full time and attention to the duties of the office.
For the purpose of such an intervention, appearance or participation, the attorney general may expend such funds as may be appropriated. These expenditures shall not exceed annually the amount assessed against such electric, water, gas, telephone and telegraph company under section 3 of chapter 24A, notwithstanding subsection (b). The attorney general shall not expend any of such funds if the expenditure shall conflict with his duties under section 3.
(b) In the performance of his duties under this section, the attorney general may retain an expert or a consultant to assist in proceedings before the department of public utilities or the department of telecommunications and cable. If the attorney general determines that the services of an expert or a consultant are necessary in a proceeding, he shall file notice in the proceeding that includes the type of expert or consultant sought and the anticipated cost. Upon the filing of such notice, the department before which the proceeding is commencing shall allow full parties to the proceeding the opportunity to comment regarding the necessity or desirability of such services. Absent a showing that the costs proposed are unnecessary for the attorney general to represent ratepayer interests in the proceeding or that such costs are not reasonable or proper, the use of the expert or consultant shall be approved. Costs for an expert or a consultant shall not exceed $150,000 per proceeding unless approved by the department based upon exigent circumstances, including the complexity of the proceeding. All reasonable and proper expenses, as defined in this section, shall be borne by the affected party in the proceeding and shall be paid by such party at such times and in such manner as the attorney general directs. All reasonable and proper costs and expenses, as defined in this section, shall be recognized by the departments for all purposes as proper business expenses of the affected party, recoverable through rates without further approval from the departments.
(c) The attorney general may request, orally or in writing, that any company subject to the jurisdiction of the department of public utilities or the department of telecommunications and cable respond to not more than 15 information requests, including subparts, per calendar month regarding any matter related to the rates, charges, tariffs, books or service quality of the company, and the company shall answer these information requests fully and completely in a reasonably prompt manner, not to exceed 30 calendar days from the date of issuance, regarding any issue that is within the jurisdiction of the department. Department rules pertaining to the scope of questions and objections to discovery shall apply to any such request and the department shall have jurisdiction to rule on any objections or motions to compel. If the company fails to answer the information requests in a reasonably prompt manner, the attorney general may request enforcement of this subsection from the department having jurisdiction over the company.