8660 Public Utilities Commission
6695 - OFFICE OF RATEPAYER ADVOCATES
The mandate and function of the Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA) is defined in Public Utilities Code Section 309.5. The ORA is a statutorily-defined state entity charged with representing and advocating on behalf of public utility customers and subscribers in all significant proceedings within the PUC's jurisdiction.
Chapter 856, Statutes of 1996 (SB 960), codified the ORA with a director appointed by and serving at the pleasure of the Governor and charged the ORA with representing ratepayer interests in Commission proceedings. Chapter 1005, Statutes of 1999 (AB 1658), directed funds from the Public Utilities Commission Utilities Reimbursement Account to be transferred in the annual budget act to the Public Utilities Commission Ratepayer Advocate Account. The law further required that "funds in the Public Utilities Commission Ratepayer Advocate Account shall be utilized exclusively by the division in the performance of its duties as determined by the director" [of ORA], and that the budget be submitted to the Commission for approval.
Chapter 440, Statutes of 2001 (SB 201), removed the limitation that ORA only represent ratepayers in PUC proceedings. SB 201 extended ORA's representation to other venues such as, but not limited to, the Energy Commission, Air Resources Board, California Independent System Operator, and legislative hearings.
Chapter 440, Statutes of 2005 (SB 608), required the PUC to provide personnel and resources to ORA, including attorneys and other legal support, sufficient to ensure that customer and subscriber interests are effectively represented in all significant proceedings. The law also authorized the ORA director to appoint a lead attorney to represent the division and that "all attorneys assigned by the Commission to perform services for the division shall report to and be directed by the lead attorney appointed by the Director" [of ORA].
Chapter 356, Statutes of 2013 (SB 96), requires the creation of an independent ORA program budget administered and utilized exclusively by ORA, subject to review and approval by the Department of Finance. SB 96 also requires the ORA director to employ personnel and resources, including attorneys and other legal support staff, at a level sufficient to ensure that customer and subscriber interests are effectively represented in all significant proceedings.