Maryland Public Service Commission
The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) is an independent administrative agency within the state government which regulates public utilities and certain taxi cab and other passenger services in Maryland. Similar to other state Public Utilities Commissions, the Maryland PSC regulates and sets tariff rates for natural gas, electricity distribution, local telephone, water, and sewage disposal companies. The PSC also sets the tariff rates for pilot services for vessels and privately owned toll bridges, approves the construction of electric generating plants and overhead transmission lines with a voltage above 69 kV, and licenses retail natural gas and electricity suppliers. The PSC offices are located in Baltimore in the William Donald Schaefer Building.
Members of the Public Service Commission
The five PSC commissioners serving staggered terms are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Maryland General Assembly. By statute the commissioners must be representative of the state's regions and demographics. The current commissioners are Jason M. Stanek (chairman), Michael T. Richard, Anthony J. O'Donnell, Odogwu Obi Linton, and Mindy L. Herman.
The PSC enforces the state statutes in the Public Utility Companies article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Hearings on matters subject to the jurisdiction of the PSC are conducted before the Commission or by its hearing examiners. The PSC has an independent division hearing examiners which issue proposed orders, which may be appealed to the Commission. Most hearings are held in the PSC offices in Maryland, but state statutes require public hearings for some subject matter to be held in the county or municipality affected by the proceeding. Final orders are issued by the Commission and are subject to judicial review in the state circuit courts. The PSC publishes a selection of its orders each year along with its annual report to the Maryland General Assembly in its own case reporter.
Supported by a plank in the Maryland Democratic Party state electoral platform to enact a regulatory utility law and by Governor Austin Crothers, the PSC was established in 1910. The initial purpose of the PSC was to fix the rates of steam railroads, street railways, ferries, toll bridges, and gas, electric, heating, water, telegraph, telephone, and water utilities, but the PSC also had the authority to hear complaints about service.
In December 1911, William Ashbie Hawkins represented several plaintiffs before the Public Service Commission protesting against the segregated conditions both in boats and trains under the Jim Crow law. In October 1911, Hawkins, outraged at poor sleeping and eating conditions for blacks on Chesapeake Bay ferryboats, took the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railway Company to court. Though his complaint was dismissed, the Public Service Commission did recommend, on February 13, 1912, that the company upgrade its facilities for blacks  and occasionally required upgrades to facilities consistent with the "separate but equal" requirements of that time.
A series of complaints were filed in 1911 challenging conditions faced by African-Americans on steam boats regulated by the PSC due to the segregated facilities provided under the recently enacted Maryland Jim Crow laws.
In 1999, legislation titled the Electric Customer Choice and Competition Act of 1999 was enacted to restructure the electric industry and electric generation was deregulated.
Electric generating plants
Although the PSC, as a result of the 1999 deregulation of the state electric industry, no longer regulates the cost of electricity generated in plants located in Maryland, it still is responsible for the approval of electric generating plants and transmission lines and for the approval of certain modifications. An entity planning to construct or modify a generation plant or transmission line must receive a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the PSC. An application for a CPCN must first be filed with the PSC and is then reviewed before a PSC Hearing Examiner in a formal adjudicatory process, which includes an opportunity for public participation. Since the PSC is an independent commission, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Power Plant Research Program (PPRP) is responsible for the coordination of the State agencies' review. This coordinated review process allows the State to examine potential impacts upon its natural and cultural resources, environment and economy and typically culminates in a set of recommended licensing conditions. In addition, the PSC Staff and a State agency charged with protecting the interests of electricity ratepayers, the Office of People's Council (OPC), intervenes in the case and can present their arguments and opinions. Upon completion of the adjudicatory and public hearings, the PSC will issue a proposed order. After a period which an appeal can be made to the full commission, a final order is released either granting or denying the application. Certain small generating plants, including most emergency generators, are approved using an abbreviated process.
Although there are approximately 40 generating plants that provide power for customers in the state, Maryland imported about 35% of its electricity from neighboring states in 2008.
|Waldorf||Natural gas||Competitive Power Ventures||Waldorf, Charles County||725|
|Natural gas||Panda Energy||858|
|Natural gas||Public Service Enterprise Group||755|
|R. Paul Smith (closed 2012)||Bituminous coal||FirstEnergy||Williamsport||109|
Base load coal and nuclear generating plants generate the greater portion of electricity in Maryland. Coal-fired plants producing 39.3% of the state's electric generation in 2008 with nuclear plants generating 13.8%, oil and gas plants 41.2%, and hydroelectric plants and other renewables providing the remainder. In a 2010 report the PSC reported that 70% of the electric generating capacity in the state came from plants that were over thirty years old. As of 2015[update], the Supreme Court of the United States is reviewing whether Maryland is allowed to subsidize new power plants.
Passenger carriers (including taxicabs) operating intrastate in Maryland must obtain a certificate to operate in Maryland. Carriers operating in Montgomery or Prince George's Counties that will also operate interstate into Washington, DC, or the cities and counties in Virginia that border Washington must also register with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission.
- "Background Information". Maryland Public Service Commission. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
- John Philip Hill & Arthur R. Padgett, Annotated Public Service Commission Law of Maryland 3 (1913). Cited in Bogen, David S. "Precursors of Rosa Parks: Maryland Transportation Cases Between the Civil War and the Beginning of World War I." Md. L. Rev. 63 (2004): 721.
- Hively, John P. (1971). "Maryland Government 1867-1956". In Radolf, Morris L. The Old Line State: A History of Maryland. Baltimore: Twentieth Century Printing Co. p. 377.
- Bogen, David S. (2004). "Precursors of Rosa Parks: Maryland Transportation Cases Between the Civil War and the Beginning of World War I" (PDF). Maryland Law Review. 63: 721, 747–749. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
Note: Bogen notes in his footnotes that in Henry G. Burke's work on the Public Service Commission of Maryland 124, 131-57 (1932). In a study of the Public Service Commission of Maryland, the author (Burke) devoted a chapter to valuation and rate cases, id. at 131-57, but mentioned racial complaints only once, when listing the complaints in cases to vacate orders of the Commission. Id. at 124-25.
- Bogen cites Officers Admit Color Discrimination, Afro-Am. Ledger (Balt.), Dec. 9, 1911, at 1; Attorney Hawkins Makes Appeal, Afro-Am. Ledger (Balt.), Feb. 17, 1912, at 8.
- Archives of Maryland, (Biographical Series), W. Ashbie Hawkins (1861-1941), MSA SC 3520-12415.
- Annotated Code of Maryland, Pub. Utils. § 7-207.
- Maryland Public Service Commission (August 2011). "Ten-Year Plan (2010-2019) of Electric Companies in Maryland" (PDF). pp. 7–8, 11. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- "High Court Will Decide Federal, State Powerplant Subsidy Tiff". Engineering News-Record.