Policy Initiative Releases Report on Alternative Dispute Resolution at Public Utility Commissions

The Policy Initiative released a report on the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) at public utility commissions (PUCs). ADR processes and practices offer informal means for settling conflicts, sharing information, and reaching consensus on public policy. The report discusses considerations for using ADR at Commissions and highlights how regulators across the country incorporate ADR into their operations. It was informed by conversations with staff members or Commissioners at regulatory Commissions in seventeen states.

The report includes five key takeaways for regulators:

  1. Every Commission Can Employ ADR. Regardless of resources, budget, or legal authority,a PUC can develop a practice of using ADR.
  2. ADR Processes Should Match Commission Goals. A PUC should identify the goals it is trying to achieve and design an ADR process that may be able to help. For instance, if a PUC is trying to obtain better information in a rate case it might convene an informal technical session, while if it aims to minimize staff resources it might encourage parties to settle and provide staff to mediate the case.
  3. Flexibility May Enhance the Likelihood of Success. Commissions should be open to feedback and willing to adapt when doing so may enable parties to settle or find consensus.
  4. Commissions Should Experiment and Track Performance. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to successful ADR. By documenting and evaluating ADR efforts, a PUC can refine its approach, unify disparate ADR proceedings, and construct a more formal ADR effort.
  5. Commissions Can Learn from Each Other. A PUC that has little or no experience with ADR is not starting from a blank slate. PUCs across the country are utilizing a range of ADR processes, and were enthusiastic about discussing their ADR efforts with us.

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