The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is Open
If any Minnesotan needs information or help with a utility or telecommunications issue under the Public Utilities Commission’s (Commission) authority, please contact the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Office (CAO) for assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-378; or online at https://mn.gov/puc/consumers/
The CAO is the first stop for Minnesotans to get information or assistance concerning gas and electric utilities and telecommunications companies under the Commission’s jurisdiction. As part its duties, the CAO provides dispute resolution assistance and assistance filing complaints against utilities.
Additionally the CAO administers consumer protection measures related to the Cold Weather Rule. The Office also administers telephone service discount programs like Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP), and works with consumers as the liaison to the federal Lifeline program and Link-Up Minnesota programs.
After having suspended agenda meetings for several weeks, the Commission is back to having a regular schedule of meetings. The Commission is holding meetings and hearings remotely via Webex. Please see the Commission’s calendar for upcoming meetings or hearings.
Executive Order 20-58
On May 15, 2020, Gov. Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-58. This order provided clarification that the PUC may hold remote electronic meetings in lieu of all required in-person meetings. This measure will help to avoid exposing members of the public and state employees to unreasonable health and safety risks.
In order to promote participation from members of the public the Commission will take the following actions.
Enhanced Notice and Extended Comment Period
Notices will have additional participation information. Specifically notices will include:
- A brief description of the remote meeting formats;
- Information about how to request paper copies of meeting materials in advance of a meeting;
- Information about how questions and comments can be submitted in advance of a meeting/hearing or after it has occurred;
- Contact information of a staff person acting as technical representative to assist with remote meeting access questions;
- Notices will be issued earlier than previous practice;
- Notices will be sent to a wider distribution list than required.
Multiple Electronic Formats for Meetings and Hearings
Required Commission meetings and hearings will be conducted using both web-based and teleconferencing tools. Using multiple formats like web-based and teleconferencing is meant to ensure those with low or no web access can still participate in the proceeding. Meetings and hearings will have an operator-assisted feature to facilitate question and answer sessions and provide orderly receipt of public comments.
During a meeting or hearing:
- Agency staff will be available to provide technical assistance to facilitate public participation;
- A court reporter will be used to create a transcript of the proceeding;
- Presenters will frequently remind public how to get in queue to ask questions or provide comment;
- Contact information of appropriate staff for process and participation questions and answers will be provided in presentations as well as notices;
- Increasing the length of the comment period after a meeting or hearing.
Enhanced Web Resources
COVID-19 Related Meetings
- May 7, 2020 Agenda Meeting at 9:15 a.m. - Commission Docket Nos. 20-425 and 20-427. Please see the Commission's calendar posting for the agenda and viewing information.
Commission Response to COVID-19
Commission Docket No. 20-375
Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-01 declaring a peacetime emergency to protect Minnesotans from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In response to this declaration, a joint letter was sent March 25, 2020 to all electric and gas utilities operating in the state from Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Chair Katie Sieben. Responses to the letter may be found in the Commission’s eDocket system with Commission Docket No. 20-375.
In their letter to utilities, the Department of Commerce and Public Utilities Commission set out a list of minimum voluntary actions requested for the duration of the national security or peacetime emergency.
- Extend protections of Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule by restricting disconnection of residential customers for non-payment of utility bills and reconnecting customers who have been disconnected for the duration of the national security or state peacetime emergency. This request shall not affect the utility’s ability to disconnect a customer’s service for public safety concerns unrelated to non-payment of services.
- Waive late fees that any residential or small business customer incurs because of the economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Arrange payment plans for customers requesting help during this time that is based on the financial resources and circumstances of the customer.
Commission Docket No. 20-374
Also in response to the Governor’s Executive Order, a joint letter was sent to all telephone service providers in the state. Responses to this letter may be found in the eDockets system with Commission Docket No. 20-374.
In the letter to telephone service providers, the Department of Commerce and the Public Utilities Commission set out a list of minimum voluntary actions requested for the duration of the national security or peacetime emergency consistent with the FCC’s “Keep America Connected Pledge”.
- Not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Waive any late fees that any residential or small business customer incurs because of the economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Open its Wi-Fi hotspots to any American who needs them.
In addition, we are seeking that telephone service providers take the following voluntary actions:
- Suspend data usage limits due to COVID-19.
- Ensure traffic flows smoothly across your network, regardless of increased demand.
Executive Order 20-20
On March 25, 2020, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-20 (EO 20-20) instructing Minnesotans to stay at home or in their place of residence except to engage in certain activities and critical sector work. The Governor’s EO 20-20 is in effect from Friday, March 27 until April 10, 2020. In EO 20-20, there is guidance as to which employees are deemed critical. Please review EO 20-20 and the included CISA direction.
The Commission remains open for business but has transitioned to telework The Commission continues to adhere to guidance from MDH, and the CDC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commission will continue to process dockets and ensure safe, adequate and efficient utility services at fair and reasonable rates. As the Commission continues to adapt to the changing conditions related to the COVID-19 virus, we will keep Minnesotans updated of what we are doing and how they can continue to participate in our processes.
Executive Order 20-02
On March 15, 2020 Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Oder 20-02 (Order). In this Order, the Governor authorized the temporary closure of Minnesota K-12 public schools to students.
As part of this Order, Governor Walz also directed schools to provide care to, at a minimum, district-enrolled students aged 12 and under who are children of emergency workers. The Governor also encouraged schools and school districts to provide extended care—before and after school hours—to students who are children of emergency workers.
The Minnesota Department of Education provided schools with additional guidance for implementing the Care for Children and Families of Emergency Workers provision. This guidance categorizes some gas, electric, water, and telecommunications as Essential Tier 2 Workers. Schools are not required to provide childcare for Essential Tier 2 Workers, but schools are directed to make every effort to provide childcare for these workers as well because the services provided by electric and gas utility workers are vital to ensuring that Minnesotans have gas and electric service.
More COVID-19 Related Information
Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html
Executive Orders by the Governor can be found at https://mn.gov/governor/news/executiveorders.jsp
NARUC COVID-19 Information can be found at https://www.naruc.org/compilation-of-covid-19-news-resources/
MISO COVID-19 Information can be found at https://www.misoenergy.org/stakeholder-engagement/coronavirus-disease-covid19/