This document presents the results of GAO’s survey of the staff of state commissions
that oversee regulated electrical and natural gas utilities. The responses represent the
views of these staff and may not represent the formal position or informal opinions of
state commissions or any specific commissioner.
We conducted an internet-based survey of state utility commissions in the 50
states and the District of Columbia to determine states’ current regulatory authorities,
recent oversight activities, and available resources for regulating utilities. In addition,
we asked utility commissions for their views on utility regulation in light of the passage
of EPAct 2005––particularly their views of federal agency authorities related to utility
mergers, oversight of affiliate transactions, and financial reporting. Note, some survey
questions cover periods prior to the passage of EPAct 2005.
To ensure that we obtained information from those staff with knowledge of state
electric and natural gas regulation, we obtained designated staff contact points for
each commission from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC),
a national organization that represents state public utility commissions, then sent letters
to the chairmen of each utility commission describing our survey and its purpose, and asking
them to confirm these contacts or to designate a more appropriate contact. For security and
data integrity purposes, we provided each official with a username and password to access and
complete the survey. We received responses from 49 states plus the District of Columbia,
although officials did not always provide responses to every question. One state declined
to respond due to other high priority activities occurring at the time of our survey.
Because we administered the survey to all of the state public utility commissions,
our results are not subject to sampling error. However, the practical difficulties of
conducting any survey may introduce other types of errors, commonly referred to as nonsampling
errors. For example, differences in how a particular question is interpreted, the sources of
information available to respondents in answering a question, or the types of people who do
not respond can introduce unwanted variability into the survey results To reduce nonsampling
errors, we had knowledgeable officials at NARUC review the survey to make sure they understood
the questions. We also pretested the survey with two states to ensure that (1) the questions
were clear and unambiguous, (2) terminology was used correctly (3) the survey did not place an
undue burden on commission officials, and (4) the survey was comprehensive and unbiased. In
selecting the pretest sites, we sought the advice of NARUC and selected states that had different
types of regulatory requirements. We incorporated these reviewers’ comments into the final survey.
A discussion of our scope and methodology and a discussion related to some of the survey
results are contained in our report entitled: "Utility Oversight: Recent Changes in Law Call for
Improved Vigilance by FERC" GAO-08-289. We conducted our survey work from January 8, 2007 to
June 30, 2007 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.