Agency History

Agency Operations

The Public Utilities Commission is comprised of two regulatory bodies: a three-member Commission, and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers.

The Public Utilities Commission serves as a quasi-judicial tribunal with jurisdiction, powers, and duties to implement and enforce standards of conduct. The commission holds investigational hearings involving the rates, tariffs, tolls, and charges, and the sufficiency and reasonableness of facilities and accommodations of railroad, ferry boats, gas, electric distribution, water, telephone, telegraph, and pipeline public utilities, the location of railroad depots and stations, and the control of grade crossings, the revocation, suspension or alteration of certificates issued, appeals, petitions and proceedings. Through participation in the Energy Facility Siting Board, the commission's chair also exercises jurisdiction over the siting of major energy facilities.

The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, which is headed by an administrator who is not a commissioner, exercises the jurisdiction, supervision, powers and duties not specifically assigned to the commission, including the execution of all laws relating to public utilities and carriers and all regulations and orders of the commission governing the conduct and charges of public utilities. The division holds exclusive jurisdiction over the rates, tariffs, tolls and charges and the sufficiency and reasonableness of facilities and accommodations of common carriers of property and passengers over the state's public roadways. The division additionally supervises and regulates Community Antenna Television Systems (CATV) in Rhode Island; certifies all public utilities; and has independent regulatory authority over the transactions between public utilities and affiliates, and all public utility equity and debt issuances.

Agency Objectives

To provide fair regulation of public utilities, CATV, common carriers, and major energy facilities; ensure just and reasonable rates; ensure sufficient utility infrastructure to promote economic development; and coordinate with other states and federal government agencies.

Statutory History

The regulation of public utilities in Rhode Island dates back to the Rhode Island Commission, which was established in 1839. In 1981 the General Assembly created the judicial tribunal that we have today and combined it with the Division of Public Carriers into a unified regulatory agency. Between 1981 and 1996 the roles of administrator of the division and chairperson of the commission were combined in a single position. The Utility Restructuring Act of 1996 divided these roles into two separate positions.