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Mississippi Code Title 77. Public Utilities and Carriers § 77-3-39. Hearings;  notice

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(1) Whenever there is filed with the commission by any public utility any notice of intent to change rates pursuant to the provisions of Section 77-3-37, the commission, if it so orders within thirty (30) days after the date such notice of intent is filed, shall hold a hearing to determine the reasonableness and lawfulness of such rate change.  The commission shall hold such hearing in every case in which the change in rates constitutes a major change in rates, as defined in Section 77-3-37 (8).  An abbreviated proceeding may satisfy this requirement if the commission's order is supported by the data, documentation and exhibits on file in the proceeding.

(2) Pending such hearing and the decision thereon, the commission may, at any time before they become effective, suspend the operation of such rate or rates, but not for a period longer than one hundred twenty (120) days beyond the date of the filing of the notice of intent, except as provided in subsections (15) and (16) of this section.

(3) Prior to the hearing specifically provided for herein, the commission shall direct all parties of record to appear before a hearing examiner or member of the commission staff designated by it, for a prehearing conference.

(4) Such prehearing conference shall be held at least twenty (20) days before the date such rate case is set for hearing.  The commission shall establish a procedure for conducting such prehearing conference, which procedure shall include:  (a) setting forth issues upon which no evidence shall be taken, except upon offer of proof;  (b) designation of specific issues upon which evidence will be taken;  and (c) specific areas of agreement to be placed on the record, together with the original position of the utility, the public utilities staff and the interested parties of record.

(5) At such prehearing conference the commission, or its designee, and the parties shall consider:  (a) the simplification of the issues;  (b) the necessity or desirability of providing additional information to the commission;  (c) the possibility of obtaining admissions or stipulations that will avoid unnecessary proof;  and (d) such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the case.

(6) The commission may accept and adopt as its own, the agreements between any or all interested parties of record, or any portion thereof, resulting from the prehearing conference and allow such changes in rates, without requiring any further proceedings, to become effective immediately.

(7) The commission may enter its order reciting the action taken at the prehearing conference, the agreements made by the parties as to any matters considered and the limitation of the issues for hearing to those not disposed of by admissions or stipulations of counsel.  If practicable, such order shall specify the facts that appear without substantial controversy, including the extent to which the rate change is not in controversy, and shall also direct such further proceedings in the case as are just.

(8) After the prehearing conference and no later than ten (10) days prior to the date set by the commission for a hearing:

(a) The public utilities staff shall submit to the commission all final exhibits, prepared testimony and evidence, and shall serve copies on all interested parties of record, which documents shall reflect the agreements made at the prehearing conference;

(b) The utility shall provide an exhibit indicating which portion, if any, of the public utilities staff's presentation and that of other parties it is prepared to accept and be free of future litigation, showing thereon the effect of such acceptance on the applicant's request for such changes, and shall serve copies on all parties of record;

(c) Parties other than the public utilities staff and the utility shall submit their amended exhibits, prepared direct testimony and evidence, reflecting the agreements made at the prehearing conference, and shall serve copies on all parties of record.

(9) If, after such hearing or abbreviated proceeding, the commission shall find any such rate or rates to be unjust, unreasonable or unreasonably discriminatory, or in anywise in violation of the law, the same shall be set aside, and the commission shall determine and fix by order such rate or rates as will yield a fair rate of return to the public utility for furnishing service to the public and shall make and file its conclusions and findings of facts supporting such order.  A copy of such order shall be served upon the utility in the manner provided in this chapter, and the rates fixed by the commission shall be the legal rates until changed as prescribed by this chapter.

(10) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this chapter, the commission shall hold the hearing, render its decision and enter its order not more than one hundred twenty (120) days after the date of the filing of the said notice of intent.  If the commission does not make a final determination concerning any schedule of rates within a period of one hundred twenty 120) days after the date of the filing of the notice of intent, and notwithstanding any order of suspension, except as provided in subsections (15) and (16) of this section, the public utility may put such suspended rate or rates into effect as temporary rates by filing with the commission a bond in a reasonable amount approved by the commission, with sureties approved by the commission, conditioned upon the refund, in a manner and to the parties to be prescribed by order of the commission, of the amount of the excess, with lawful interest thereon, if the rate or rates so put into effect are finally determined to be excessive.  There may be substituted for such bond other arrangements satisfactory to the commission for the protection of the parties interested.  During any such period when suspended rates are in effect under bond or other arrangement the commission may, in its discretion, require that the public utility involved shall keep an accurate account of payments made under the rate or rates which the public utility has put into operation in excess of the rate or rates in effect immediately prior thereto.

(11) In addition to the other remedies provided by law, should there be an appeal of the commission's final order, the commission shall allow the utility to place such portion of the schedule of rates that is approved by the commission in such final order into effect under refunding bond or other arrangements satisfactory to the commission for the protection of parties interested.

(12) Should the final judicial determination of an appeal of a commission's final order rendered pursuant to subsection (9) hereof result in a schedule of rates less than what the commission allowed, the commission shall by order require the refund to customers of any amounts collected by a utility under bond, or other arrangements, during the appellate process which the courts found to be in excess of the amounts that should have been allowed by the commission in its final order.  Such refunds shall be made in full, including interest at the lawful rate and shall be made within ninety (90) days after such final judicial determination.  In lieu of payment, the utility may credit the service account with the amount due under this subsection if the consumer entitled to the refund is, at that time, a consumer of the utility.

(13) Any bond, or other arrangements, approved by the commission pursuant to subsection (11) of this section shall be in such amount and with sufficient sureties to insure the prompt payment of any refunds if the rates so put into effect are finally determined by the commission or the courts to be excessive.

(14) For purposes of subsections (9), (11) and (12) of this section, the term “final order” means an order of the commission promulgated pursuant to subsection (9) of this section or, in the event of a rehearing conducted pursuant to Section 77-3-65, means an order of the commission promulgated subsequent to such rehearing.

(15) No public utility may have more than one (1) major change in rates in effect under refunding bond at the same time.  When a case is pending before the commission or before any court which involves a major change in rates which are in effect under refunding bond, and when the commission shall find that the pending case involves an issue or issues necessary to be resolved before the commission can effectively proceed with the hearing, decision or order, the 120-day period provided for in subsections (2) and (10) of this section may be enlarged by the commission, in order to postpone the hearing on the notice of intent, decision or final order in any subsequent rate case filed by the same utility, until a final order has been rendered with respect to the prior pending change in rates.

(16) When a notice of intent to change rates is filed with the commission, said notice shall be assigned a docket number and the commission shall examine the filing to determine if it contains the standard requirement list of documentation set out in Section 77-3-37(2) and (4), if applicable, and in any rules and regulations adopted by the commission under Section 77-3-37(2).  Within five (5) days from the date said notice is filed, the commission shall notify the filing utility in writing of its failure to include with its notice any items included in such standard requirement list of documentation.  Such notification shall specify the item or items not filed with said notice.  The filing utility shall have ten (10) days from the date it receives said notification to file the omitted item or items with the commission.  Provided, however, upon request by the filing utility made within said ten-day period, the commission shall grant, by order, such additional time as the filing utility may request, not to exceed thirty (30) additional days, within which to file the omitted item or items.  If the filing utility fails to file the omitted item or items within said ten (10) days or within such extended period of time as the commission by order shall allow, the commission may refuse to consider any evidence in support of said item or items in making the commission's final determination concerning the schedule of rates filed with the notice.  Notwithstanding the 120-day time period imposed on the commission to render its decision and enter its order under subsections (2) and (10) of this section and the 80-day time period imposed on the public utilities staff, intervenors or protestants for the filing of all direct testimony, exhibits and other information under Section 77-3-37(7)(b), if the filing utility is granted additional time within which to file the omitted item or items, said 120-day and the 80-day time periods shall be extended by the number of days between the date of the commission's order granting the extension and the date such omitted items are filed with the commission, but such extension of said 120-day and 80-day time periods shall not exceed thirty (30) days.

Cite this article: - Mississippi Code Title 77. Public Utilities and Carriers § 77-3-39. Hearings;  notice - last updated January 01, 2018 |

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