Deborah Flannagan Executive Director

1997 Strategic Plan of the Georgia Public Service Commission

Deborah Flannagan
Executive Director





Executive Summary

 

The mission of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) is to ensure that consumers receive the best possible value in telecommunications, electric and natural gas services and to improve transportation and pipeline safety. The PSC’s vision is to:

Although the telecommunications, natural gas and electric industries are becoming more competitive, the PSC recognizes that its responsibility to ensure that utility services are reliable and reasonably priced has not changed. Georgians should continue to have access to high quality utility services whether those services are priced in a competitive market or through economic regulation.

Public safety is a priority in both the State’s Strategic Plan and in the PSC’s Strategic Plan. The Commission enforces natural gas pipeline and commercial vehicle safety regulations. These programs are focused not only on detecting and correcting safety violations, but also on preventing pipeline incidents and commercial vehicle accidents. The PSC enhances public safety through an active inspection program, the enforcement of safety standards and through education of the industries and the public.

The PSC continually looks for ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of agency operations. The Governor has challenged all state agencies at every level to look at their operations in new ways. The Commission has identified several key areas where it can strive to deliver services to citizens in a more effective manner.

The PSC interacts with numerous individuals and organizations and demonstrates a commitment to these customers and stakeholders through consumer protection, public information and education. The Commission will continue to expand its consumer protection function. The PSC has also adopted strategies in this plan to increase and intensify agency-wide public information and education efforts and to work cooperatively with its network of internal and external partners in the public and private sectors.

The PSC has greatly enhanced access to public records and improved the efficiency of agency operations through the deployment of advanced computer technology. The Commission has installed a state of the art computer network to respond quickly to consumer questions and to facilitate decision-making. Public access to information will become more critical in the future. As regulated industries become competitive the PSC will be the principal source of objective information for the public concerning the performance of providers of utility services.

The strategic directions starting on Page * of this plan relate to five areas: Utility Regulation; Pipeline and Transportation Safety; Internal Operations; Consumer Protection and Public Information; and, Information Technology. These are designed to make the PSC’s vision a reality. The PSC strives to be a leader in both utility and transportation matters, to be responsive to customers and stakeholders and to continue to develop a technically competent staff. This plan provides for consumer protection, safety, quality of service and choice in the telecommunications, energy and transportation industries by emphasizing education, technology, partnerships and continual improvement. Strategies to improve our internal operations ensure that the Commissioners have the data and technical support needed to make decisions that balance multiple interests and produce the best possible long term results.

 

Table of Contents

Executive Summary *

Overview *

Mission and Vision Statements *

Links to the State Strategic Plan *

Major Strategic Directions and Associated Strategic Objectives *

Appendices *

Acknowledgments *

 

 

Overview

Strategic planning is an ongoing process, not a one time event. Through this process the guiding members of an organization envision its future and develop the procedures and operations necessary to achieve that future. The strategic planning process provides an opportunity for the Commissioners to communicate their ideas, values and concerns to one another, to their staff and to their customers and stakeholders. The 1997 Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) Strategic Plan relates to the regulation of the telecommunications, electric, natural gas and transportation industries, as well as the internal operations of the agency.

History of Strategic Planning at the Georgia PSC

 

In 1993 SB 335 required that state agencies engage in strategic planning and produce a strategic plan consistent with the state’s strategic plan. During 1994 and 1995, as part of this initiative to improve state government, top staff at the Commission went through several weeks of training and strategic planning. They identified several critical success factors for the PSC: 

Based on these critical success factors, seven strategic planning teams were initially established and have evolved into the eight teams currently in place at the PSC. These teams have been effectively integrated into the work process at the Georgia PSC.  

The Deregulation Policy Management team has been subdivided into three industry teams—Telecommunications, Natural Gas and Electric. The Marketing and Public Education teams were combined to form a single team focusing on Communications. The Outcome-based Budgeting team has been changed to the Results-based Budgeting Team to conform to the current state budgeting terminology. The Esprit d’Corps team was incorporated into the Personnel Policy Team. Finally, the Transportation Safety Division established a Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) Planning Team to facilitate the preparation of the annual grant request for federal funding under the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. 

 

Initial Teams

Current Teams

Deregulation Policy

Telecommunications

Personnel Policy

Natural Gas

Marketing

Electric

Public Education

Personnel Policy

Automation

Communications

Outcome-based Budgeting

Automation

Esprit d’Corps

Results-based Budgeting

 

MCSAP Planning

 

A variety of benefits have been achieved by incorporating these teams into the daily operations of the agency. Planning is no longer an annual event, but an integral part of the PSC’s ongoing processes. Staff members have eliminated duplicative work identified during the cross-divisional team meetings. And, most importantly, increased involvement of staff has had a positive impact on teamwork and morale. 

1997 Strategic Planning Process 

In addition to the ongoing strategic planning team meetings, this agency conducted a series of studies and planning sessions in late 1996 and early 1997 to update the strategic plan by July 1997.  

Situational Analysis

A situational analysis of the agency was performed by an outside consultant in the fall of 1996 as a precursor to the strategic planning sessions. Interviews with selected Commissioners and staff members were used to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the PSC. Several recommendations for improvement were indicated through this analysis and each has been addressed in the strategic planning process: 

 Commissioner Planning Session

In December 1996 the Commissioners attended a one-day strategic planning retreat. The primary focus of this session was on global issues facing the PSC over the next two to five years. They discussed the major initiatives that the Commissioners want to undertake, how the PSC will redefine its role as competition emerges and what the Commission wants to accomplish.

Ideas about specific areas of concern and potential solutions were discussed and suggestions were documented for future consideration or immediate action. Several areas of consensus among the Commissioners were identified relating both to regulatory activities and to the administration of the agency. This consensus was captured in the agency’s Mission Statement and formed the basis for the Vision Statement. Specific issues that would be addressed in a current or future docket were not discussed.

Strategic Planning Sessions

In May 1997 three strategic planning sessions were held. The first two were facilitated planning sessions attended by staff. Using the overall direction from the Commissioners’ session, this group prepared the PSC’s strategic plan. The recommended plan was then presented to the Commissioners at the third planning session at the end of May. Based on the discussion at this session the plan was refined, finalized and adopted by the Commissioners in June 1997.

 

Mission and Vision Statements

Mission Statement:

Vision Statement:

Links to the State Strategic Plan

The Governor’s State Strategic Plan sets forth six strategic priorities to move Georgia into the future. The Public Service Commission has responsibilities and activities that impact all six areas and has identified in this plan strategic directions and strategic objectives to further the statewide goals.

 

Economic Development

The economic development of Georgia is a key focus in the State Strategic Plan and the Governor notes that Georgia must have the foundation and infrastructure necessary to foster economic growth. Utility industries regulated by the PSC provide essential services—maybe the most critical to a healthy economy. Without reliable, safe, adequate and affordable electricity, telecommunications, natural gas, and commercial vehicle transportation, economic growth is not possible. Reliable electric and gas supply at reasonable prices is vital to industrial development. Business cannot thrive without access to technologically up-to-date telecommunication services at affordable rates. As regulated utilities are opened to competition, the PSC will ensure that the quality, reliability and affordability of these important services are not impaired. The PSC has always supported economic development in Georgia. Economic development rates for electric service is one example. This set of discounted rates is designed to retain industry and attract new businesses to Georgia.

 

Public Safety

The state’s plan states that "Government is responsible for public safety. To accomplish this the state must maintain well-trained, effective law enforcement." The PSC’s 35 enforcement officers located around the state enforce commercial motor vehicle safety regulations. The pipeline safety inspectors ensure that intrastate natural gas pipelines are designed, constructed, operated and maintained in compliance with safety standards. Both of these functions focus on preventing accidents and incidents that could adversely impact public safety. The PSC also inspects trucks and pipelines to detect safety violations and ensure that corrections are made. In the event of an incident or accident PSC officers and inspectors are called upon to investigate whether non-compliance with safety rules was a factor and what action to take to prevent a reoccurrence.

Efficient and Effective Government 

The Governor has stated that "Delivering services to citizens in the most efficient and effective manner must be the primary concern of every government agency and every public employee." The PSC has identified numerous strategic objectives to focus its resources on achieving results in the most efficient manner possible. The use of information technology has been a primary avenue for doing more with less. The PSC also encourages public and private partnerships and uses a collaborative process, where possible, to minimize the cost of regulation and to streamline proceedings. 

Human Services 

The quality of life for all Georgians is a strategic priority in the state’s plan. Electricity, telecommunications, and natural gas are an integral part of modern life. To enjoy a high standard of living Georgians must have access to these utility services. In addition to ensuring that utility services are reliable and reasonably-priced, the PSC is responsible for special programs such as the Universal Access Fund for telecommunications, the Universal Service Funds for natural gas, and Telecommunications Relay Services for persons with hearing and speech disabilities These funds are designed to ensure that service is available to all citizens of the state regardless of their special needs.

 

Environment

Although not an agency with primary responsibility for environmental issues, the PSC impacts the quality and health of the environment in a number of ways. PSC transportation officers enforce regulations on the safe transport of hazardous materials through the state and assist in investigating the cause of spills when a commercial motor vehicle is involved. In addition, environmental issues are occasionally raised in PSC proceedings relating to energy companies in order to ensure that the companies have the financial capability to comply with all applicable environmental laws and to prevent PSC decisions from having any unintended adverse environmental consequences.

 

Education

The Governor stated that in the future Georgians will see education as a lifetime pursuit. The availability and affordability of reliable service from regulated utilities directly impact education in the state, e.g., without electricity and a modern telecommunications system distance learning does not happen. In addition the Commission uses education in many areas to achieve its objectives. The Transportation Safety and Pipeline Safety Units conduct educational programs for carriers and operators in the industry to teach safe practices to prevent safety-related accidents and incidents. Consumer Education and Public Information staff disseminate information about changes in the regulated industries and consumer protection issues. Education is a primary way of demonstrating commitment to the PSC’s customers and stakeholders—all Georgians.

 

Major Strategic Directions and Associated Strategic Objectives

The PSC has identified five major strategic directions:

    1. To Ensure that Telecommunications, Natural Gas and Electric Utility Services Are Reliable and Reasonably Priced Either Through the Development of Effectively Competitive Markets or Through Economic Regulation. 
    2. This strategic direction relates to the Commission’s regulation of the electric, telecommunications and natural gas industries. Historically, utility customers have been served by a single monopoly provider which charged rates set by the PSC through economic regulation. Now some of the services provided by these industries are being opened to competition. The Commission will continue to regulate the residual monopoly services of all industries and ensure universal service as it is defined for each industry. This strategic direction asserts that although the role of the PSC is changing with the introduction of competition, its overall responsibility to customers is the same—prices paid by customers should be fair and reasonable whether the service is purchased from a monopoly utility or from a competitive provider and that service should be adequate and reliable.  

    3. To Enhance Public Safety Through the Pipeline and Transportation Safety Programs
    4. This strategic direction relates to public safety. The Commission is responsible for both natural gas pipeline and commercial vehicle safety. The PSC works closely with the federal government to enforce the national safety standards and regulations in both of these areas.

       

    5. To Enhance the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Agency Operations
    6. The third strategic direction focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of internal operations. Case processing, human resources and fiscal affairs are the key functions that management has identified for improvement. The processes and activities of each of these affect all aspects of PSC operations.

       

    7. To Demonstrate a Commitment to All Customers and Stakeholders
    8. Objectives related to this strategic direction are divided into two areas—Consumer Protection, and Public Information and Education. This strategic direction has primarily an external focus toward PSC customers and stakeholders, although internal customers are also recognized. Because of the complexity of the PSC’s responsibilities, there is a continual need to interact with numerous private and public organizations. The Commissioners and staff have established a network of contacts and working relationships with their customers and stakeholders, but as the role of the agency evolves it must expand and intensify these ties. The PSC will demonstrate its commitment to customer service by increased outreach and educational initiatives and timely responses to requests for action or information.

       

    9. To Use Information Technology to be Accessible to the Public and to Improve the Internal Operations of the Agency

The last strategic direction relates to information technology that affects all operations. The PSC has established an information technology platform and continues to expand information technology resources and uses. Connecting the agency’s offices through a Wide Area Network (WAN), equipping field officers, setting up an on premises web site, developing and improving applications, and training staff to fully utilize these resources will be the areas of emphasis in the coming years.

In the remainder of this plan, strategic objectives are set forth for each of these five strategic directions. Accomplishments to date, work-in-progress and future projects relating to achieving PSC goals are noted.

  1. To Ensure That Telecommunications, Natural Gas and Electric Utility Services Are Reliable and Reasonably Priced Either Through the Development of Effectively Competitive Markets or Through Economic Regulation

Historically, the PSC has been responsible for setting the rates charged by Telecommunications, Natural Gas, and Electric utilities through economic regulation, and for establishing and enforcing quality of service and customer service standards. Now each of these industries is evolving from a monopoly market structure where customers are served by a single provider to a competitive market where customers can choose from multiple providers for certain services. Some services will continue to be monopoly services regulated by the PSC. The pace of competition varies among these industries. In the telecommunications industry long distance service has been competitive since the 1980s. In 1995 and 1996 local telephone service was opened to competition by state and federal legislation. In 1997 Georgia deregulated the natural gas industry. Discussions about restructuring the electric industry are underway at both the state and federal level, although no statutory changes have been made to date.

As these industries are opened to competition the role of the PSC will change. Where feasible the prices charged for utility service will be market-based instead of being directly set by the Commission. Some services will continue to be provided by a monopoly, such as distribution services. The PSC will still set prices for these monopoly services. A primary function of the PSC during the implementation and transition period will be to set the ground rules to enable competitive markets to develop. Another primary objective is to ensure universal service for all Georgians. Once competition is in place the role will be to arbitrate disputes among the providers in the market, to ensure that the competitive market is operating effectively, to ensure universal service and to regulate residual monopoly services. The agency’s role in ensuring quality of service will, in all likelihood, expand. As the number of providers in each of these industries increases, so will the opportunity for harmful practices and the public’s need for accurate, objective information.

In all three utility industries the PSC has identified the same strategic direction: To ensure that utility services are reliable and reasonably priced either through the development of effectively competitive markets or through economic regulation. The following sections detail the strategic objectives that relate to this strategic direction by industry: (1) Telecommunications; (2) Natural Gas; and (3) Electric.

    1. Telecommunications Industry

 To successfully establish a competitive market in telecommunications the Commission must implement both the state and federal Telecommunications Acts in a manner that provides the benefits of competition, lower prices and better service to the maximum number of end users of telecommunications services. In reaching this goal the Commission has identified the following strategic objectives and strategies that comply with the laws and reflect sound regulatory policy. Appendix A of this Plan contains definitions of telecommunication terms and acronyms. Appendix B provides a more detailed description of the telecommunications industry in Georgia and the applicable laws.

The PSC has identified two broad strategic objectives: (1) To implement the competitive market; and, (2) To provide for universal service. To accomplish the first objective several strategies have been identified: (a) Certify alternative suppliers of telecommunication services; (b) Ensure access to existing networks by alternate suppliers (c) Implement alternative regulation; (d) Resolve interconnection and fair competition disputes; and, (e) Institute number portability. To accomplish the second objective of providing universal service, the strategy is to: (a) Ensure reasonable rates for rural and high cost areas, and low-income subscribers.

    1. Certify Alternative Suppliers of Telecommunication Services
    2. The Commission has been successful in certifying numerous alternative providers of local exchange service, interexchange service, alternative operator service and customer owned coin operated telephones. Only a few certified providers are currently offering local telephone service to businesses and even fewer to residential customers. However, the PSC expects the level of local telephone competition to accelerate with the development and perfection of electronic interface, finalized cost-based rates, and full implementation of number portability. 

    3. Ensure Access to Existing Networks by Alternative Suppliers 
    4. Access to existing networks by alternative suppliers remains one of the major road blocks to effective competition in the local exchange market. Regulatory policies and procedures have been largely worked out through Commission decisions in numerous arbitration proceedings, as required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Approving cost studies, to be used as the basis for pricing the unbundled network functions and services, is one of the last major tasks to be completed by the Commission. The balance of the concerns are operational, such as electronic interface. BellSouth must work out these technical details before it can qualify to enter the interlata market. The Commission, through the cost studies docket and the Section 271 proceeding, will be monitoring the progress and ensuring that the actual interface and interconnections are operating as expected.  

    5. Implement Alternative Regulation
    6. Prices will continue to be regulated until competition is fully in place. However, in some situations an alternative form of regulation can now be used instead of traditional rate base regulation. Alternative regulation is largely defined by statute. The Commission by order and rulemaking has begun implementation and issued interpretations of the law. One such decision is under appeal and is expected to be completed in 1997. The Commission will also be formalizing the rulemaking with respect to alternative regulation by 1998.  

    7. Resolve Interconnection and Fair Competition Disputes
    8. Two new duties for the Commission from both laws are resolving disputes between the competing carriers and enforcing a fair competitive market. As a result of these duties the Commission has experienced exponential growth in the number and complexity of cases it must handle.

    9. Institute Number Portability 

Number portability is the ability to change telephone suppliers without changing telephone numbers. Although the FCC will have ultimate jurisdiction over number portability, the Georgia Public Service Commission has been a national leader in adopting a permanent solution to number portability for the state. The FCC recognized these efforts and has adopted the Georgia solution as one of the methods for ensuring number portability. The PSC will continue to work with the FCC and the industry work group to perfect the regulatory framework for number portability. Number portability should be fully operational by the end of 1998.  

  1. To Provide for Universal Service  
    1. Ensure Reasonable Rates for Rural and High Cost Areas and Low-income Subscribers 

The Commission has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring universal access to the telecommunications network. Both of the telecommunications competition Acts address reasonable rates for rural and high cost areas. The Georgia Act provides for a Universal Access Fund to be administered by the Georgia Public Service Commission. The Commission also has responsibility for certain intrastate aspects of the implementation of the federal Universal Service Fund and its resulting programs. The federal USF will provide funds for the same purposes as the state fund, as well as for discounts to schools and libraries and assistance to low income users. The Commission plans to use the state Universal Access Fund in conjunction with the federal Universal Service Fund to ensure that rural Georgians pay reasonable rates for their basic services. The Commission will coordinate federal and state efforts to avoid duplication.  

    1. Natural Gas Industry

To successfully implement a competitive market in natural gas, the Commission must implement the law in a manner which provides the benefits of competition, lower prices and better service to the maximum number of end users of natural gas service. In reaching this goal, the Commission must meet the strategic objective and related strategies which follow. Appendix C provides a more detailed description of the natural gas industry in Georgia and the applicable laws.

The Commission’s strategic objective in the natural gas industry is: To implement the competitive market. Ensuring a smooth transition of the natural gas industry in Georgia from a regulated monopoly to a competitive marketplace will benefit the consumer, improve economic efficiency, promote fairness, and maintain safety and reliability. The strategies identified to accomplish this strategic objective are: (a) Establish an alternative form of regulation; (b) Certify marketers; (c) Prepare for the election of the gas company to unbundle rates; (d) Set rules for regulated firm delivery service and adequate market conditions; (e) Oversee duties of the electing distribution company to marketers; and (f) Establish the Universal Service Funds. 

  1. To Implement the Competitive Market 
    1. Establish an Alternative Form of Regulation 
    2. A gas company may file an application with the Commission to have its rates, charges, classification and services regulated under an alternative form of regulation. The Commission expects the first alternative regulation filing no sooner than July 1, 1997. The legislation leaves the distribution of natural gas as a monopoly service which will continue to be regulated by the Commission. The alternative form of regulation, sometimes called performance-based regulation, will replace the traditional rate base, rate of return regulation for pricing this monopoly service. 

    3. Certify Marketers 
    4. Under the new state law the Commission has the authority to issue Certificates of Authority to competing marketers. Final rules and the process for applying for Certificates of Authority by competing sellers of natural gas are expected by September 1, 1998. Having certified marketers in operation and customer assignment rules in place will signal the beginning of the transition to a competitive market. At that time customers will have a choice of natural gas suppliers. 

    5. Prepare for the Election of Gas Company to Unbundle Rates 
    6. In order to allow customers to purchase from a competitor each element of the local gas distribution service must be priced separately. This separation or unbundling of rates will be initiated upon the election of the gas company to unbundle its rates and is a major step in the process of moving to competition.  

    7. Set Rules for Regulated Firm Delivery Service and Adequate Market Conditions 
    8. When certain conditions are met under the new Georgia law the local gas company will no longer be required to sell gas to retail customers. The Commission will establish a methodology for customer assignment. At the time these conditions are met all firm retail customers who have not chosen a marketer on their own will be assigned equitably to the new marketers. 

    9. Oversee Duties of the Electing Distribution Company (EDC) to Marketers 
    10. In addition to regulating the price at which the EDC sells delivery service, the Commission is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the competitive market and resolving disputes between the marketers and the EDC. 

    11. Establish the Universal Service Funds 

The Universal Service Funds established under the new law will have two purposes: (1) To cover a portion of the uncollectible losses of marketers who serve poorly paying customers; and (2) To continue expansion of the distribution system into areas that are currently not served by natural gas. 

    1. Electric Industry 

The electric industry is not as far along in the transition to competition as either the telecommunications or natural gas industries. No legislation has been passed at either the state or federal level that opens the industry to full retail competition, even though discussions have been underway in Congress for several years. Some form of competition is expected in the future, but until then the PSC will be enforcing the current laws and evaluating ways to minimize any adverse impacts of opening the electric industry to competition. To successfully implement a competitive market in electric services, the Commission must provide the benefits of competition—lower prices and better service—to the maximum number of end users of electricity. The PSC is conducting a series of informal workshops, to be followed by generic policy proceedings, to explore the issues pertaining to the successful restructuring of the electric industry. Appendix D provides a more detailed description of the electric industry in Georgia and the applicable laws.

Until the electric industry is restructured the Commission will continue to regulate under existing law to achieve these strategic objectives: (1) Ensure just and reasonable rates; (2) Conduct integrated resource planning; and (3) Administer fair territorial assignments. Two other strategic objectives have been identified to position the industry for the expected move to a competitive market: (4) Address stranded cost recovery; and, (5) Unbundle components of electric service. 

  1. Ensure Just and Reasonable Rates 
  2. The Commission is still responsible for setting the rates for electric service provided by Georgia Power Company and Savannah Electric and Power Company. The Commission has ordered Georgia Power Company to file a rate case in July 1998. The Commission will use this case as a vehicle to prepare the Company for competition to the extent existing authority allows. Partial unbundling, potential stranded cost recovery, and rate design will be major issues in this case. Cases involving Savannah Electric and Power Company will be handled similarly. The Commission may also develop an incentive regulation plan in this proceeding.  

  3. Conduct Integrated Resource Planning  
  4. The Commission will hear and decide the three-year integrated resource plan for both utilities in 1998. In approving the plan the Commission will consider how supply and demand planning will fit in a more competitive market.  

  5. Administer Fair Territorial Assignments  
  6. The Commission administers the Electric Territorial Act and will continue to hear and decide cases on territorial disputes. 

  7. Address Stranded Cost Recovery 
  8. A major hurdle in restructuring the electric industry is the fair resolution of stranded cost recovery. The Commission has already encouraged Georgia Power Company to amortize potentially strandable costs as part of the modified earnings sharing plan. Any earnings in excess of an allowed level are being used to amortize generating assets. This equitable plan will produce long term benefits to both stockholders and rate payers. The Commission will address this issue further in the 1998 rate case. 

  9. Unbundle Components of Electric Service

The Commission has existing authority over rate design. This authority can be used to unbundle rates or to phase-in unbundling. The Commission will examine rate design very closely in the 1998 rate cases with the goal of making rates more competitive and more in line with actual costs. Elements which can be separated and billed separately will be unbundled. This will move us closer to a competitive market and make the transition easier. As with other industries the Commission expects that its authority will be to facilitate competition, certify alternative suppliers, and ensure universal service, while maintaining performance-based regulation over the remaining intrastate transmission and distribution networks.  

  1. To Enhance Public Safety Through the Pipeline and Transportation Safety Programs 

The Governor’s State Strategic Plan emphasizes the need to ensure the safety of Georgia’s citizens. Two programs at the PSC pertain directly to safety—natural gas pipeline safety and the motor carrier safety assistance program (MCSAP). The Georgia Public Service Commission is reimbursed by the federal government for 50% of the cost of the pipeline safety program and 80% of the cost of enforcing commercial motor vehicle safety regulations. 

Both of these programs are focused, not only on detecting and correcting safety violations, but also on preventing pipeline incidents and commercial vehicle accidents. Public safety is enhanced through an active inspection program, the enforcement of safety standards and through education of the industries and the public. The strategic objectives discussed below reflect the agency’s emphasis on ensuring public safety through prevention.  

    1. Pipeline Safety 

The Pipeline Safety Section is responsible for enforcing safety regulations for natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. Appendix E contains detailed information about the Pipeline Safety Program. Achieving operator compliance with the pipeline safety regulations is critical to preventing accidents and injuries to the general public. To effectively and efficiently conduct a pipeline safety program the Commission must develop a two-pronged approach that features both field inspections of existing facilities and records, and training of operators, vendors, consultants and other industry personnel to prevent violations. In reaching this goal the Commission must meet the following objectives. 

A number of strategic objectives are necessary to ensure safe pipeline systems in Georgia: (1) Heighten enforcement; (2) Perform risk management assessment of natural gas systems; (3) Expand public education and system operators safety training; and (4) Seek clarification of authority over Liquified Propane Gas (LPG) distribution systems and hazardous liquid pipelines. 

  1. Heighten Enforcement 
  2. Active enforcement through physical verification of pipeline facilities is the keystone of the pipeline safety program. Currently the PSC is performing extensive compliance audits, including physical verification of plant for all jurisdictional systems. Where inspectors have identified problems, efforts are being made to bring systems into full compliance to ensure the safety of the citizens.  

  3. Perform Risk Management Assessment of Natural Gas Systems 
  4. A new approach for selecting systems to be inspected is risk management assessment of the operators. This new analytical tool is used to measure the safety of systems and thereby allocate resources efficiently.  

  5. Expand Public Education and System Operator Safety Training 
  6. To better inform the public and improve safety, the PSC is expanding the Natural Gas Safety program to include more public education and safety training. To accomplish this objective a statewide training officer needs to be added to the program. The statewide training officer will conduct safety classes in public schools and speak to various civic groups about natural gas safety. The statewide training officer will also conduct in-depth compliance classes to educate operator personnel on proper safety procedures and practices. Such training will help ensure that the systems are installed properly, and operated and maintained in a safe manner.

     

  7. Seek Clarification of Authority Over Intrastate Liquified Propane Gas (LPG) Distribution Systems and Hazardous Liquid Pipelines 

The Federal Office of Pipeline Safety has funds available for inspection of intrastate liquified propane gas systems and liquid petroleum pipelines. However, there is a conflict between the federal and state law regarding authority over the inspection of intrastate LPG systems. State law grants tank inspection authority to the State Fire Marshal’s Office; while federal law authorizes full system inspection to the Public Service Commission along with federal funding. For the PSC to fulfill its federal mandate and to be eligible for federal funds, it appears that a state statutory change that grants this authority to the Commission is necessary.  

    1. Transportation Safety 

The Transportation Division of the Georgia Public Service Commission regulates private and for-hire commercial motor vehicles and buses to ensure compliance with registration, insurance, safety and hazardous materials regulations. This Division is comprised of 35 enforcement officers and a support staff of 24. These officers are assigned territories which range in size from four to ten counties. The officers reside and work in their assigned territories

The day-to-day operations of the Transportation Division include: roadside inspections, safety operations reviews, dissemination of educational and informational materials, and data collection. The registration unit collects approximately $7,000,000 in registration fees annually under the division’s registration program—approximately $3,125,000 is retained and deposited in the general fund of the State of Georgia. Part of the PSC’s commitment to commercial vehicle safety has been to work with other state and federal agencies, and now with enforcement divisions in respective counties, to promote commercial vehicle safety. 

The Transportation Division has identified the following five strategic objectives and the associated strategies:  

  1. Focus on High Risk Commercial Operators  
  2. To reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths resulting from crashes involving Commercial Motor Vehicles, the Transportation Division will establish a Safety Operations Review process to focus on high risk commercial operators. Several steps will be involved in conducting safety operations reviews.  

    1. Establish a Safety Operations Review Team to identify those motor carriers who demonstrate a continuous and flagrant disregard for the commercial vehicle laws and regulations administered by the Transportation Division;  
    1. Dispatch Safety Operations Review Team to motor carrier offices to discern why and where violations are occurring and causes therefor; 
    2. Provide carriers with a packet of educational materials which sets forth guidelines to be used in setting up a viable safety program; 
    3. Make recommendations to the carrier with time schedules for correcting violations; 
    4. Perform follow-up reviews and make recommendations for sanctions, if necessary; and, 
    5. Develop and implement civil penalty procedures to be used when carriers fail to comply. 
  1. Improve Data Collection Technology and Analysis 
  2. By improving the quality and timeliness of data received and the methods of analyzing the data, problem areas involving Commercial Vehicle Safety will be more readily identified. To achieve this objective the Transportation Safety Division will:  

    1. Purchase pen-based computers which will allow daily upload of inspection information from the field to headquarters; 
    2. Interact with Department of Public Safety, Georgia Department of Transportation, U. S. Department of Transportation and county enforcement agencies involved in traffic enforcement inspections for collection of data; 
    3. Continue to participate in Intelligent Transportation System/Commercial Vehicle Operations (ITS/CVO) initiatives with other state agencies and jurisdictions; and, 
    4. Develop a training course for other law enforcement agencies in techniques for determining the identity of the carrier who is operating a leased commercial motor vehicle and which vehicles are considered "commercial motor vehicles." 
  3. Enhance Enforcement Activities 
  4. In addition to inspecting commercial motor vehicles in their assigned geographic areas of the state, officers will participate in concentrated enforcement efforts in high crash corridors. Because of traffic density, the majority of accidents involving commercial motor vehicles occurs on sections of Georgia’s highways that are either major transportation arteries or near metropolitan areas. Focusing enforcement in these high risk areas should reduce accidents, fatalities and injuries involving commercial motor vehicles. Activities involved in coordinating and following-up on these efforts include:  

    1. Identify high crash corridors in the state by location, time-of-day, day-of-week and contributing factors; 
    2. Coordinate joint enforcement efforts in high crash areas with other agencies; and, 
    3. Issue computer-generated notices to motor carriers where flagrant driver violations are found, e. g., excessive speeding, hours of duty status violations, following too closely, and improper lane changes. 
  5. Increase Consumer Protection
  6. By achieving this objective the PSC will be providing consumers with maximum protection against loss, damage claims and inadequate service from household goods and other carriers. To accomplish this objective the Transportation Division will:  

    1. Develop a Consumer Complaint Tracking System; 
    2. Perform in-depth study to assess present laws, rules and procedures to determine adequacy; 
    3. Maintain current insurance records on for-hire motor carriers; and, 
    4. Develop consumer information brochures regarding responsibilities of motor carriers when moving household goods. 
  7. Evaluate the Need For a Rail Safety Program 
  8. Promoting the safety of railroad operations should reduce deaths, injuries and damage to property resulting from railroad accidents. The steps involved in setting up a rail safety program include: 

    1. Enter into an agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to participate in the Rail Safety Program; 
    2. Develop and implement a Railroad Safety Program in conjunction with the Federal Railroad Administration; and, 
    3. Hire and train personnel who would qualify as Certified Rail Inspectors.

  

  1. To Enhance the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Agency Operations

One of the six strategic priorities set forth in the State Strategic Plan is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations. The Governor challenged all state agencies at every level to look at operations in new ways. The PSC is continually looking for ways to improve operations and to effectively use its limited resources. In response to the Governor’s directive the agency has identified three key areas where it can strive to deliver services to citizens in a more effective manner.

The first key area for improvement is case processing. Because of its quasi-judicial nature, the PSC uses the administrative hearing process to obtain the evidence on which the Commissioners must base their decisions. As with any legal proceeding, there is a trade-off between due process and efficient case processing. However, the agency has a certain amount of flexibility to structure the process and to use information processing technology to make these proceedings as efficient as possible.

The second key area under this strategic direction is human resources. Since the majority of staff members are professionals with degrees or other credentials, the PSC recognizes that employees are its most valuable and costly resource.

The third key area relates to budget and fiscal affairs, the function through which the Commission obtains its resources and ensures that an appropriate system of internal controls is in place to safeguard those resources. 

 

    1. Case Processing 

An effective and efficient case processing system is essential to the Commission's goals of ensuring that consumers receive the best possible value in telecommunications, electric, natural gas services and improving transportation and gas pipeline safety. The Utilities and Transportation Divisions have distinct case processing systems, primarily because only the Utilities Division falls under the Administrative Procedures Act.  

Consumers will obtain more value if Commission decisions are based upon effectively analyzed information. A case processing system should ensure that all information for any matter pending before the Commission is effectively analyzed. Commissioners, staff, parties, and other interested entities will have access to both procedural and substantive information regarding any matter pending before the Commission. Having easy access to the status of cases will allow all interested parties or entities to track the progress of a case and ensure that the matter is timely and appropriately addressed. 

Historically, the Commission acted as a judicial body. As the utility industries move from regulation to competition, the role of the Commission will more frequently be that of a facilitator or mediator. The Commission will mediate disputes between different competitive providers in the marketplace and establish policies for competitive practices. This transition is almost complete in the telecommunications industry; it is just beginning for the gas industry. The electric industry will be the last utility industry to use competition in lieu of economic regulation for setting retail rates. Once the Commission has established policies and procedures regarding competition, the focus will shift to the implementation of the policy decisions.  

As the Commission’s role in utility regulation changes so does the need for different types and formats of case information. Having a case processing system flexible enough to respond to this changing role is essential to the success of the Commission in achieving its strategic objectives.  

In addition to automating the filing, case management, and information retrieval system, the Commission has identified the following objectives to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the case processing system: 

  1. Develop a Proactive Case Management Approach  
  2. A proactive case management approach to docketed matter resolution will ensure that staff's workload is evenly distributed, each case progresses in a timely manner, and that the quality of work is acceptable. The issues in each case should be identified early enough in the process to provide sufficient development of the record on which legal decisions are based. 

  3. Revise Commission Rules 
  4. All Commission rules will be reviewed and the need for additions, deletions and modifications identified. Appropriate rulemaking proceedings to make the modifications will be conducted over the next year. Numerous changes will be needed to reflect the changes brought about by competition and to protect consumers.  

  5. Utilize Hearing Officers for Non-Policy Proceedings 
  6. Dockets that do not involve policy decisions, such as local exchange company applications, territorial disputes, and transportation matters, can be heard by hearing officers. The use of hearing officers will allow the timely processing of these cases. With the increased number of policy dockets relating to deregulation, the availability of time for Commissioners to hear non-policy dockets is limited.  

  7. Implement the Case Management Unit 

The Commission has established a Case Management Unit within the Utilities Division to assist the Commission in its transition from adjudicator to facilitator. This unit will help handle the numerous complex cases which are before the Commission and which are expected to increase with the restructuring of regulated industries. 

    1. Human Resources  

The Industrial Age is behind us and the Information Age is upon us, with knowledge workers and service workers as the dominant groups in the private and public sector workforce. Taxpayers and consumers are demanding more accountability for the ways their monies are spent and the cost of the services they buy. However, research shows that capital alone cannot be substituted for labor and technology alone cannot generate higher productivity (Drucker, Managing for the Future, 1992). The worker is the critical path to success in today’s society.  

The Georgia Public Service Commission is committed to professionalism and development of its staff. Currently, the following initiatives are underway to enhance human resource management at the PSC: 

 

In addition to these current initiatives, the PSC has identified one strategic objective: To enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of human resource management at the PSC. The following strategies will be used to achieve this objective: 

  1. Adopt guiding principles 
  1. Create a learning organization by connecting the Commission to its environment, empowering the staff towards a collective vision, establishing systems to capture and share learning, encouraging collaboration and team learning, promoting inquiry and dialogue, and creating continuous learning opportunities (Watkins, Creating the Learning Organization, 1996); 
  2. Establish the customer service paradigm as part of the PSC’s culture and the way it does business; 
  3. Provide a mechanism for cross-training and succession planning;  
  4. Introduce scenario-planning to keep the agency on the leading edge of change and prepared for multiple futures;  
  5. Benchmark dynamic organizations in these areas and conduct needs assessments to measure the gap between where the agency is and where it wants to be;  
  6. Use the Communications Strategic Planning Team as the conduit to obtain and disseminate ideas and to accomplish the strategic objectives;  
  7. Perfect the Performance Management System to link individual performance and staff development to agency mission; and,  
  8. Establish a Personnel Management System to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order for agencies to adopt policies that ensure sound personnel practices.  
    1. Budget and Fiscal Affairs 

The Fiscal Office provides support to the entire agency by coordinating the budget process and performing the purchasing and accounting functions. These services are essential to PSC operations to obtain the resources required to fulfill its statutory duties and to ensure that an appropriate system of internal controls is in place to safeguard those resources. In the State Strategic Plan the Governor emphasizes that agencies must "focus their commitment and resources upon results and be willing to measure their performance and be accountable." The Fiscal Office is coordinating this effort at the PSC through the implementation of results-based budgeting. Through this process the Commission will identify the desired outcome of its efforts and measure progress toward achieving its goals.

 

The PSC has identified two strategic objectives: (1) To ensure the sound financial management of available resources; and, (2) To minimize disruption during the two agency moves. The following strategies have been developed to achieve these objectives. 

  1. To Ensure Sound Financial Management of Available Resources  
    1. Use an Interactive Team Approach to Implement Results-Based Budgeting. 
    2. The Budget Office will develop an interactive relationship with program staff to implement results-based budgeting. Through this team approach the highest priority projects will be identified for the budget. This will assist the Commission’s work units in achieving primary objectives and performing the duties for which they are responsible while continuing to provide efficient and effective fiscal integrity. 

    3. Develop an Operating Procedures Manual. 
    4. A usable operating procedures manual is expected by the end of fiscal year 98. The documentation will codify the activities currently performed by the Fiscal Office and ensure consistency in the future. The manual will also document the agency-wide procedures for staff.

    5. Develop and Implement an Improved Property Accountability System. 

By the end of Fiscal Year 98 a more accurate and usable inventory control system will be in place.

 

  1. To Minimize Disruption During the Two Agency Moves 
    1. Coordinate with GBA and DOAS 

During the next two years the PSC will work closely with GBA and DOAS to assist them in designing the temporary and permanent offices and coordinating the two moves. The PSC hopes to improve access to facilities, comply with ADA, improve security and generally improve the working environment at the PSC.  

  1. To Demonstrate a Commitment to All Customers and Stakeholders 

The PSC has numerous customers and stakeholders with which it interacts. The Commission does not work in isolation. Because the Commission is a relatively small agency with limited resources, it must work cooperatively with a large and varied network of internal and external partners in the public and private sectors. Appendix F has detailed information about the Commission’s customers and stakeholders and the initiatives undertaken to demonstrate its commitment to them.

The Commission demonstrates this commitment in two primary ways—Consumer Protection, and Public Information and Education. The Commission is an agency in the business of giving information to and receiving information from customers and stakeholders. An extensive amount of highly complex and technical information is available but must often be translated so that it can be readily understood. Then it must be made available through a variety of methods depending upon the intended audience. As regulated industries become competitive the PSC will be the principal source of objective information for utility consumers and the public concerning the identity, service area, and performance of providers.

 

The Commission plans to continue to enhance its consumer protection function and to increase and intensify its agency-wide public information and education efforts. This will necessitate increased teamwork and communication among staff, and additional staff training so they understand the part they play in helping the agency accomplish its objectives.

Two strategic objectives relate to this area: (1) Enhance Consumer Protection; and, (2) Expand Public Information and Education. Several specific strategies have been identified to accomplish these objectives. These strategies will be coordinated with the consumer protection and education efforts discussed in other sections of this plan. 

  1. Enhance Consumer Protection 
  2. As the number of providers rises with the introduction of competition, the Commission recognizes that consumer protection will become increasingly important. Several strategies will be employed to enhance this function. 

    1. Track Consumer Response System Complaint Trends 
    2. Commissioners, staff, and regulated utilities will communicate and coordinate their efforts by using the interactive Consumer Response System. The Commission will use complaint trends and other relevant information derived from consumers and other sources to set regulatory priorities, undertake investigations and initiate enforcement proceedings.  

    3. Monitor Marketing and Other Practices of Utilities
    4. The Commission will develop and implement industry-specific strategies for selectively investigating the practices of service providers that it suspects to be acting in a manner inconsistent with applicable rules, tariffs or statutes and randomly investigating the practices of other providers.  

    5. Evaluate the Cost-Effectiveness of Installing an Automatic Call Distribution System 

    The Commission will evaluate the cost and benefits of replacing outdated telephone equipment with an automatic call distribution system. The existing system cannot manage the increasing call volumes or accommodate improvements in the response time to callers. If cost-effective, funding should be secured and installation should be coordinated with the renovation of the PSC’s offices.  

  3. Expand Public Information and Education
  4. The Commission plans to expand its public information and education efforts to educate customers and stakeholders about Commission matters, decisions, and public service and safety issues, and to market PSC accomplishments. The Commission will use the following strategies to achieve this objective: 

    1. Expand Electronic Access to Commission Information 
    2. The Commission will determine what additional information to make available electronically to its customers via its Internet home page in order to ensure that consumers and stakeholders have ready access to accurate and understandable information necessary to make informed decisions about utility services.  

    3. Set up a Speakers’ Bureau  
    4. The Commission will establish a speakers’ bureau to respond to requests from industry groups, civic groups, chambers of commerce, schools and other organizations. Topics will include the changing role of the PSC, utility competition and customer choice, and commercial vehicle and pipeline safety. 

    5. Participate in the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Ad Hoc Committee on Consumer Education  
    6. The Commission will participate in the planning efforts of the NARUC Ad Hoc Committee on Consumer Education. Information on customer needs, best methods to reach customers and educational materials will be made available to Georgia citizens. 

    7. Conduct a Stakeholder Needs Assessment  
    8. The Commission will conduct a stakeholder needs assessment. The information gained will determine the type and format for educational materials about PSC issues and decisions.  

    9. Enhance Internal Communications 

The Commission will evaluate and update its current procedures for internal communication. The PSC will enhance not only the process for transmitting information between Commissioners and staff, but also the flow of information among staff members.

 

  1. To Use Information Technology to be Accessible to the Public and to Improve the Internal Operations of the Agency

The PSC has greatly enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations through the deployment of advanced computer technology. The agency has installed a state of the art computer network and uses it extensively to improve operations, e.g., electronic access to public records. The PSC uses this technology to respond quickly to consumer questions and to facilitate decision-making. As regulated industries become competitive the PSC will be the principal source of objective information for the public concerning the identity, service area, and performance of providers.

  1. Standardize Hardware and Software  
  2. The Commission has established a standard platform for hardware and software and has partially completed the installation phase. Eventually, all PCs will have sufficient capability to handle, and be loaded with, Windows 95 and Microsoft Office 97 (Professional). Availability, support and compatibility with the systems used by the regulated utilities were some of the factors considered when selecting this particular platform for the desk top computers. Consistency with the federal computer standards and programs, and overall versatility were key factors in selecting the Fujitsu pen-based systems for PSC enforcement officers to use in the field.  

  3. Enhance Internal and External Interconnections 

Several initiatives are underway to improve interconnectivity. Some of these include: 

  1. Develop and Implement Applications To Improve Efficiency and To Ensure the Reliability and Integrity of Information  

With the implementation of the LAN and standardized PCs the next challenge for the Commission is to identify, design and implement applications to improve its work processes. All mainframe applications used by the Transportation Division will be converted to PC-based data bases by 1999. Some of the other applications under development are: 

  1. Instruct Users 
  2. With the Commission making a major investment in information technology resources, training the staff to effectively use the system will be a critical success factor. Instruction will be provided for both commercial software and custom applications.

  3. Develop In-house Information Technology Unit 

To reduce Commission dependency on outside systems support and programmers an Information Technology Unit consisting of a two-person staff is being developed. The staff will provide user support, manage the network, and assist in application development and implementation.  

 

Appendices

Appendix A –Telecommunications Terminology

The Telecommunications industry is famous for its vast number of acronyms and terms of art. The following terms are defined, as used in this document:

  1. Access Line is a two way, voice grade circuit which allows connection to the telecommunications network. A number of instruments can be connected to one access line but only one can be operated at a time (such as telephone, fax machine, computer modem or extension telephone). 
  2. ADAD is an Automatic Dialing and Announcing Device which automatically calls and announces a recorded message to the subscriber
  3.  

  4. AOS is Alternative Operator Service. To provide operator service requires a license from the Commission. If the operator service provider is someone other than a LEC or IXC, then they are called Alternative Operator Service Providers. 
  5. CLEC is a Competing Local Exchange Carrier who has a certificate to provide local exchange service in an area currently served by an incumbent LEC. 
  6. COCOT is a Customer Owned Coin Operated Telephone. Independent providers own and operate coin operated telephones under certificates granted by the Georgia Public Service Commission. 
  7. IXC is an interexchange carrier that provides access to the long distance network. A company can be both a LEC and an IXC. 
  8. LEC is a local exchange company which provides the access line to the subscriber. The LEC provides local two-way voice service, including touch tone, call forwarding, and other enhanced services. An ILEC is one of the incumbent local phone companies not affiliated with BellSouth.  
  9. TSOE is Telephone Service Observing Equipment which employers can use to monitor the telephone calls of their employees and customers. Such equipment must be licensed by the Commission.
  10. Universal Access Fund is a statutory state fund which is used to phase down the intrastate access charges to interstate levels by giving a subsidy to LECs for providing local telephone service below cost. The fund is administered by the Georgia Public Service Commission. 

 

Appendix B—Telecommunications Industry in Georgia

 

The PSC’s Telecommunications Section processes telecommunications matters in conjunction with other units of the Commission. Telecommunications is an industry vital to the economy of the state and to the quality of life of our citizens. Almost every family has a telephone (94%). There are over 3,500,000 access lines in Georgia and the number is growing dramatically as more homes and businesses add multiple lines for fax, computer modems, and Internet access. Total intrastate revenue from the end user in Georgia is in excess of $2 billion.  

The Georgia Public Service Commission’s role in this vital industry is determined by both the state statute, O.C. G. A. 46-5-160 et. seq., and the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. The prime focus of both of these laws is to replace regulated monopoly service with a competitive market. The PSC has created a Telecommunications Strategic Planning Team that proposes plans and executes approved plans for the regulatory changes necessary to implement these laws. As Georgia has moved to a competitive market, the Commission has certificated 28 alternate local exchange providers, 370 resellers, 126 AOS providers, 21 Interexchange Carriers, and 513 COCOT providers. The Commission has also resolved four arbitration cases, and approved 37 interconnection agreements. The Commission has set up a Universal Access Fund, ordered reductions in intrastate tolls and expanded toll free EAS to 160 additional routes. The Commission will also be implementing HB-888 to further expand the EAS toll free routes in late 1997.  

The framework for the strategic direction for telecommunications is set by state Telecommunications and Competition Development Act of 1995 (O.C.G.A. 46-5-160 et. seq.) and the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. In passing the Act the state legislature found "It is in the public interest to establish a new regulatory model for telecommunications services in Georgia to reflect the transition to a reliance on market-based competition as the best mechanism for the selection and provision of needed telecommunications services at the most efficient pricing." O.C.G.A. 46-5-160(a)(1). In passing the federal Act Congress stated the purpose was, "To promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies."  

O.C.G.A. 46-5-163 gives the Commission the authority to issue Certificates of Authority to competing local exchange carriers. The Commission is currently issuing Certificates of Authority to applicants, however granting the certificate is only the first step in the process. A critical step is access to the existing networks by alternative suppliers. The Commission has a procedure in place which provides for the timely processing of applications. The Commission has been successful in certifying numerous alternative providers of local exchange service, interexchange service, alternative operator service and customer owned coin operated telephones. There currently exists a very active competitive market in the interexchange or toll business.  

One major step to be accomplished to enhance competition is to certify that BellSouth is meeting the requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 for entry into the interlata interexchange business. The Commission estimates that by the end of 1997 BellSouth will be ready and have FCC approval to enter into the interlata market. This will add a very large and active competitor to the market.  

There is currently very little competition for business and even less for residential service in the local exchange markets. The Commission expects this to change in mid-1997 with continuing improvement in 1998, and subsequent years, as more CLECs start up business. This will be accelerated with the development and perfection of electronic interface, finalized cost-based rates, and full implementation of number portability. The Georgia Public Service Commission expects electronic interface to be perfected to an acceptable level of operation by the end of 1997. Final cost-based rates will be in place for BellSouth by the end of 1997 barring an appeal or reversal of the Commission’s decision.  

The Commission is currently working with the Tier 2 LECs to develop a costing model which can be used for setting cost based rates for interconnection and UAF subsidy. This model should be operational by July 1, 1998, the date set by O.C.G.A. 46-5-163 (Commission) for open competition in Tier 2 areas for local exchange service.  

Both of the laws address reasonable rates for rural and high cost areas. The Georgia Act provides for a Universal Access Fund which is administered by the Georgia Public Service Commission. Funding comes from an assessment on all intrastate revenues to the end user in Georgia. At the current time the money is being used to fund the phase down of intrastate access charges for Tier 2 companies to the interstate level as it existed on July 1, 1995. This is being done over a five-year period, the second of which the Commission will address in 1997 (O.C.G.A. 46 -5-166(f)). The final year for the phase down is 2000. As we progress toward 2000 and beyond, the PSC will phase out this part of the fund and replace it with a permanent cost-based fund that will ensure reasonable rates for all Georgians (O.C.G.A. 46-5-167).  

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides for assistance with this goal at the federal level. The Commission plans to use the state Universal Access Fund in conjunction with the federal Universal Service Fund to ensure that rural Georgians pay reasonable rates for their basic services. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 defines reasonable rates as comparable to urban rates for similar services. The Commission has adopted this definition in administering the state fund. The Commission must review the definition of basic local exchange services under O.C.G.A. 46-5-162(2). It is already technologically obsolete with a 9600 baud data/fax communications requirement. The Commission expects to address this issue in 1998. 

The strategic directions contained in these laws are consistent with the State’s plan for economic development. The Commission has adopted as one of its strategic directions "To ensure that telecommunications, natural gas and electric utility services are reliable and reasonably priced either through the development of effectively competitive markets or through economic regulation." 

 

Appendix C—Natural Gas Industry in Georgia

The Natural Gas Local Distribution Industry is in transition from a regulated monopoly to a competitive market. The Commission adopted policies relating to natural gas restructuring in May 1996 after issuing a Notice of Inquiry (NOI). Consistent with the principles outlined in its policy statements, the Commission actively participated in the Legislative Study Committee on Natural Gas Deregulation. As a result of that committee’s work, in 1997 the General Assembly passed SB 215, "The Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act of 1997," thereby providing a plan for restructuring the natural gas local distribution industry from a monopoly service to a competitive market. The PSC’s Natural Gas Strategic Planning team has developed a plan to implement the provisions of SB 215 and the Commission has approved two NOIs to begin implementation of the Act.

Over 1,400,000 customers use natural gas supplied by regulated Investor owned natural gas Utilities (IOUs). The total revenues of the two regulated Investor-owned gas utilities, Atlanta Gas Light and United Cities Gas, approximate $1.5 billion. The municipal gas systems will not be directly affected by this legislation. Natural gas is a critical input into a number of industrial processes and is essential for economic development. Most manufacturers, such as textile, chemicals and automobiles, are heavy users. A healthy natural gas market is vital to the economy of Georgia. The Commission believes that the best way to have a healthy market is to ensure that real competition exists. The Georgia Public Service Commission will develop this market through the implementation of SB 215.

SB 215 empowers the Georgia Public Service Commission to oversee the implementation of a new paradigm in the natural gas local distribution industry in Georgia. The Commission’s decisions in 1997 and subsequent years will have consequences that will carry forward for years to come. The primary goal of the Commission is to enhance the transition of the natural gas industry in Georgia from a regulated monopoly to a competitive marketplace in a way which benefits the consumer, improves economic efficiency, promotes fairness, and maintains safety and reliability via the implementation of SB 215.

To be successful in this effort, the Commission must balance a broad range of conflicting interests. The Commission will get the maximum input from all interested parties by issuing notices of inquires, conducting workshops, issuing rulemaking and processing cases filed under the law. The Commission expects to develop formal rules, filing requirements, procedural rules, regulatory policies and guidelines.

The overall objective is to ensure that the benefits of competition, lower prices and better service accrue to a maximum number of end users. The degree to which the consumer benefits will be a good measure of the PSC’s efforts and success. In implementing SB 215 the prime question before the Commission will be, "What are the essential features of the new gas markets which will bring lower prices and better service to the consumer?" The Commission will consider this question in every docket, case, NOI and rulemaking. Real, active and vigorous competition is the ultimate vehicle for securing the benefits of competition. Commission regulation should be as light as possible and regulatory compliance should be as easy a burden as possible consistent with this objective.

The framework for the strategic direction for natural gas is set by the "Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act of 1997." In passing the "Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act of 1997" the Legislature found, "It is in the public interest to establish a new regulatory model for the natural gas industry in Georgia to reflect the transition to a reliance on market based competition as the best mechanism of the selection and provision of natural gas services at the most efficient pricing." O.C.G.A. 46-4-151(a)(1). This law was the result of changes in the natural gas market which have been the result of action by FERC to deregulate the interstate natural gas industry. These changes have made it imperative that Georgia restructures the intrastate market as well.

A gas company may file an application with the Commission to have its rates, charges, classification and services regulated under an alternative form of regulation (O.C.G.A. 46-2-23.1). The Commission is authorized to either approve or deny a gas company’s proposal. By statute this alternative regulation must be performance-based. While this code section grants the gas companies the option to file at any time for this performance-based regulation, the Commission is planning to take the initiative and conduct a proceeding to determine the best form of performance regulation which conforms to the statute. The Commission plans to issue a NOI in early June and develop rulemaking or other appropriate vehicle such as a hearing to determine some of the basic issues before a gas company files. This will be important because the delivery of natural gas (i.e., the distribution or "Pipes" business) will always be regulated under this statute. The Commission expects the first alternative regulation filing no sooner than July 1, 1997. A later filing date will move the completion date to a correspondingly later date. This will be a major case which will take until December of 1997 to complete.

O.C.G.A. 46-4-153 gives the Commission the authority to issue Certificates of Authority to competing marketers. The law requires that the rules and regulations regarding Certificates of Authority be promulgated by December 31, 1997. The Commission has issued a NOI and expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by August 1997. This will allow time for two cycles of rulemaking if necessary. Part of the duties of the Commission is to assign each unassigned customer to a marketer after certain events have occurred. The Commission has also issued a NOI on customer assignment. This will signal the complete transition to a competitive market and the local distribution company will be relieved of the duty to sell gas to the end user. The Commission is expecting to develop the final rules and process applications for Certificates of Authority for competing sellers of natural gas by September 1, 1998, the beginning of the heating season. The law does not permit Certification until a LDC elects to unbundle pursuant to O.C.G.A. 46-4-154. This date is the earliest possible if a LDC files before July 1, 1997.

O.C.G.A. 46-4-154 allows a gas company to file a notice of election, which is an application to establish just and reasonable rates, including separate rates for unbundled service using straight fixed variable rate design. Unbundling is a major step in the process of moving to competition. Each element of the LDC’s services is to be priced separately so customers can purchase from a competitor. This involves major changes in pricing gas to the customer and will be a major case. The election may or may not be made concurrently with the application for alternative regulation. If the gas company elects to file concurrently, then there would be a "mega" rate case which would address all of these issues at one time. The Commission is planning to address as many of these issues as possible in advance through NOIs, rulemakings, and hearings, which will allow the Commission to keep the initiative instead of only reacting to the gas company filings.

When certain conditions are met under the new Georgia law the local gas company will no longer be required to sell gas to retail customers. The Commission will establish a methodology for assigning to the new marketers any firm retail customers who have not yet chosen a marketer. This provision is designed to allow the local distribution company out of the "market function." The Commission does not expect to make such assignments until 1999 or 2000 at the earliest because it will take time for the condition precedents to occur. However, since the law has a time limit of December 31, 1997 for rulemaking, the Commission will have the rules in place well in advance of any need.

O.C.G.A. 46-4-158 et. seq. provides for certain duties of the electing distribution company. The electing distribution company (EDC) will be a "pipes" business which delivers the gas and does certain other functions, all of which are regulated by alternative regulation. The sale of the gas will be an unregulated business with only competition to control the price. In addition to regulating the price that the EDC sells delivery service, the Commission is charged with the responsibility of overseeing the competitive market and resolving disputes between the marketers and the EDC. The Commission, by rules, regulations and hearing of complaints, will be the agency which resolves disputes between the EDC, marketers, and customers. As with telecommunications, this should add significantly to the agency’s case load.

O.C.G.A. 46-4-161 provides for the establishment of a "Universal Service Fund" by the Commission. The term Universal Service Fund is a misnomer since the fund does not provide for universal service. The natural gas distribution systems are not extensive enough to serve all areas of the state, so universal service is not physically possible. The fund has two purposes: (1) To cover part of the uncollectible loss from marketers who serve poorly paying customers and thus lose money; and (2) To provide funds to expand the system of the EDC to areas not currently served by natural gas. The Commission expects to have the rules for the fund in place by December 31, 1997. The Commission expects to establish the fund early in 1998.

The strategic direction contained in this law is consistent with the Governor’s strategic priority of economic development and with the Commission’s strategic direction "To ensure that telecommunications, natural gas and electric utility services are reliable and reasonably priced either through the development of effectively competitive markets or through economic regulation."  

Appendix D—Electric Industry in Georgia 

The PSC’s Electric Section processes electric matters in conjunction with other units of the Commission as may be necessary. Electricity is a vital energy form to the economy of the state and to the quality of life of our citizens. Of the three utility industries, the electric is the most universal. Virtually everyone in the state has electricity. Electricity is a basic necessity of modern life. The Commission administers the Integrated Resource Statute and the Electric Territorial Act. While the Commission has rate regulation of only the investor-owned electric companies, the Commission regulates territorial assignment for all suppliers. The Commission also approves the financing of rural cooperatives. The two investor-owned utilities, Georgia Power Company and Savannah Electric and Power Company, serve approximately 1,650,000 homes and businesses and have combined retail (Commission jurisdiction) revenues of approximately $3.3 billion. 

Like the other two industries, the electric industry is in a state of change. The PSC expects that the electric industry in Georgia will be restructured before 2000. The Commission has already taken steps to prepare for this eventuality. The Commission has started a series of electric restructuring workshops that address multiple issues that must be resolved if competition is to come to the electric industry.  

Currently there is no state legislation or federal legislation that mandates restructuring. As a result, the electric industry is still under rate of return rate base regulation. At least one more rate case will be conducted under the old paradigm for each of the investor-owned electric utilities. Georgia Power will be filing July 1, 1998 per Commission order. This is the end of the modified earnings sharing plan that the Company is currently under and the end of the 10-year amortization of the Plant Vogtle phase-in. In this rate case the revenue requirements for Georgia Power are expected to be significantly reduced. The PSC also expects to take this opportunity to restructure rates and to unbundle some of the rates in preparation for the eventual restructuring of the industry. Major issues for the electric industry are structural separation of the currently vertically integrated utilities, independent system operation (ISO), and stranded cost. The Commission has partly addressed stranded cost by allowing the accelerated amortization of potentially stranded cost as part of the modified earnings sharing incentive regulation plan Georgia Power is currently under. These issues will continue to be addressed in 1998 and 1999 by the PSC. 

Unlike the other two industries, there is no new legal framework to determine the Commission’s strategic direction in the electric industry. Therefore, the legal framework is existing law which reflects the old paradigm of monopoly regulation. Although there is limited flexibility under these laws, the Commission is taking the initiative to examine restructuring and plans to take an active role in the electric restructuring in Georgia.  

The strategic directions contained in this plan are consistent with the State’s plan for economic development and with the Commission’s strategic direction "To ensure that telecommunications, natural gas and electric utility services are reliable and reasonably priced either through the development of effectively competitive markets or through economic regulation."  

Appendix E—Pipeline Safety in Georgia 

The Pipeline Safety Section is responsible for enforcing safety regulations for natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. The PSC’s authority over distribution and transmission systems within Georgia extends from the interstate transmission pipelines to the outlet of each customer’s meter. 

The Georgia Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over two investor-owned natural gas distribution companies—Atlanta Gas Light with 42 separate units and United Cities Gas with two separate units. In addition, the Commission checks the safety of 123 master meter operators, 83 municipal systems, 18 direct sales operations, and five LNG plants.  

The Commission’s involvement with pipeline safety began in 1970 following enactment by Congress of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968, which established safety standards for gas systems. This law allowed state agencies to participate in safety enforcement by entering into agreement with the federal government to carry out a Gas Safety Program.  

Achieving operator compliance with the pipeline safety regulation is critical to preventing accidents and injuries to the general public. Accordingly, the Pipeline Safety Section places a great deal of emphasis in the review and monitoring of the natural gas operators’ construction and maintenance work. The Pipeline Safety Section also conducts training of system operators to bring about compliance with safety regulations and to reduce the amount of unaccounted for gas in the systems.

The Commission has adopted as one of its strategic directions "To enhance public safety through the Pipeline and Transportation Safety Programs." The PSC’s strategic direction for pipeline safety is consistent with the State Strategic plan for public safety and for economic development since business and individuals demand safe and reliable natural gas to operate and locate in Georgia.  

Appendix F—Consumer Protection and Public Information and Education

 Consumer Protection

The PSC’s most important future role will be to provide consumers with the information, analysis, conflict resolution, and advocacy services necessary to make intelligent decisions about utility purchases. Competitive markets for goods and services generally depend on competition itself to ensure that prices are fair, that market access is nondiscriminatory, and that consumers are not misinformed about their choices. The introduction of competition into many of the traditionally-monopolistic utility markets will place pressure on providers to keep prices low and service quality high, but also will require regulatory vigilance. While competition is still incomplete, it is necessary to ensure that firms are able to compete meaningfully and effectively. In addition, there may always be opportunities for business to take advantage of customers who are not well informed, or who lack access to competitive services when service is poor or prices are high.

The Commission remains uniquely capable of providing these services to utility consumers. Because consumer conflicts will increase as markets grow, the Commission has begun to modernize and improve its handling of complaints and inquiries concerning traditional utility practices. The Commission must also be prepared to address both the new commercial relationships and the fair-dealing issues which are likely to arise with the continued movement toward greater competition in various markets. It will be critical for the Commission to confront these changes in the coming years because of the scheduled introduction of local telephone competition and the steady movement toward competitive markets in electric generation and gas procurement.

Commissioners and every PSC employee are involved in consumer protection at some level. The Commission is a resource for consumers when problems or conflicts with service providers occur. Most often, consumers call, write, or visit the Commission for one of six reasons:

The Commission plans to consolidate and intensify its efforts to serve the interest of individual consumers as well as undertake actions to address broad consumer interests.

Customers and Stakeholders

In addition to demonstrating a commitment to utility customers through consumer protection initiatives, the Commission recognizes the need to serve its other external and internal customers and stakeholders. The Commission does not work in isolation. Because the Commission is a relatively small agency with limited resources, it must work cooperatively with a large and varied network of internal and external partners in the public and private sectors to communicate with its customers and stakeholders. Internal customers of the PSC include Commissioners and Staff and the PSC’s primary external customers include:

 

Some of the PSC’s stakeholders include: 

    1. Georgia citizens;
    2. Executive Branch of Government
      1. Governor and Lt. Governor,
      2. Department of Administrative Services (DOAS)
      3. Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA)
      4. Merit System
      5. Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Consumers’ Utility Counsel (CUC)
      6. Utilities Protection Center (UPC),
    3. Members of the General Assembly and their staff;
    4. Attorney General’s Office (AG)
    5. Congress and federal agencies
      1. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
      2. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
      3. Federal Department of Transportation (DOT)
      4. Department of Energy (DOE)
    6. The media;
    7. Associations and Advocacy Groups
      1. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC)
      2. Hearing and speech impaired
      3. National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB)
      4. Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)
      5. Campaign for a Prosperous Georgia (CPG)
      6. Edison Electric Institute (EEI)
      7. Georgia Textile Manufacturers Association (GTMA)
      8. Georgia Telephone Association (GTA)
      9. Georgia Motor Trucking Association (GMTA)
      10. Georgia Industrial Group (GIC)
      11. Georgia Municipal Association (GMA)
      12. Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia (MGAG)
      13. National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR) 
      14. Each of the regulated industries is undergoing change. To achieve success in implementing change today, the components of change must be translated into a language that each audience can understand and then communicated in a way that ensures apparent and appealing benefits. Each customer and stakeholder group (target audience) has unique needs, fears and emotional "hot buttons" regarding restructuring in the electric, natural gas, and telecommunications industries, increased marketplace competition, economic growth, trucking accidents, natural gas pipeline explosions, and consumer rights and responsibilities. Each group’s needs must be identified and satisfied in order to achieve acceptance and understanding of the Commission’s role in balancing Georgia’s economy, and ensuring consumer choice of adequate, reliable utility services at reasonable rates. 

        Public Information and Education Initiatives

         

        The PSC has expanded its public information and education efforts over the last three years. While setting 1995 agency goals, education and marketing were established as two directions for the PSC to pursue in order to enhance communications with customers and stakeholders. Because some PSC staff were already engaged in a number of outreach and education activities, a Communications Team, which included representatives from all Commission program areas (e.g., transportation vehicle safety, natural gas pipeline safety, consumer affairs/public information, legislative liaison, Commissioners’ offices, personnel, and administration) was established to explore how we communicate who we are, what we do, and to whom it should be communicated.  

        Activities during 1995 included:

         

        1. Surveying staff to determine their thoughts,
        2. Informally interviewing some of the stakeholders and customers,
        3. Developing a matrix to define primary audiences and proposed tools to reach each audience,
        4. Writing the PSC mission,
        5. Formulating a PSC logo and slogan, and
        6. Establishing objectives for public awareness project priorities in 1996.

 During 1996 public awareness projects completed included: 

        1. Publishing and disseminating to a large number of internal and external customers and stakeholders a consumer friendly 1995 annual report, revised PSC general brochure, and Commissioners’ bios brochure;
        2. Developing a PSC home page to provide electronic access to the Commission’s cases, orders, calendars, news releases, and other information;
        3. Arranging a video teleconference, which included many of the PSC’s customers and stakeholders and used the Board of Regents’ GSAMS site with a link to the University of Georgia, to provide information on forthcoming competition in telecommunications markets and working with the Cable Television Association to disseminate the recorded program;
        4. Developing and disseminating several public service announcements to make consumers aware of blind spots for truckers and how they can help prevent accidents by staying out of these "No-Zone" areas when passing big rigs on the highways; and,
        5. Providing training to PSC staff who spoke to civic and other groups about the changing role of the Commission and the new choices consumers will face in the future.

 

For 1997 public awareness projects include:  

        1. Producing an educational video that will focus on the changing role of the Commission and the choices consumers must make in competitive telecommunications, gas and electric markets;
        2. Working cooperatively with the Utilities Protection Center to use funds from the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety to raise public awareness in schools and among contractors about calling before digging to prevent underground utility accidents and protect lives and property and to develop a statewide utility mapping system;
        3. Holding public hearings throughout the metro Atlanta areas to obtain citizen input on a new area code; and,
        4. Updating existing public information materials and mailing/fax lists.

  

Acknowledgments

 This Strategic Plan is the culmination of many hours of hard work by numerous individuals. The five PSC Commissioners were the driving force behind this effort: 

Stan Wise, Chairman

Bobby Baker, Vice Chairman

Dave Baker, Commissioner

Mac Barber, Commissioner

Bob Durden, Commissioner 

The 1997 Strategic Planning Team consisted of staff from all PSC divisions who spent long hours developing a comprehensive plan with relevant and ambitious goals for the agency: 

Deborah Flannagan, Executive Director

Terri Lyndall, Executive Secretary

Bev Knowles, Director of Utilities

Al Hatcher, Director of Transportation

Jackie Thomas, Personnel Officer

Harriet Van Norte, Director of Consumer Affairs

Phil McMullan, Budget Officer

Ken Ellison, Assistant to the Director

Lucia Ramey, Director of Safety and Compliance

Nora Blair, Transportation Specialist

Wayne Beck, Major

Larry Luke, Captain

Danny McGriff, Pipeline Safety Supervisor

Lillian Johnson, Assistant Director 

Many members of the PSC staff participate on the ongoing strategic planning teams and their work performed throughout the year laid the foundation for this annual plan. Steve Mabry of Office of Planning and Budget facilitated the staff planning sessions and Arthur Andersen conducted the situational analysis.