100 Years and counting: History of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

COLUMBUS — This month the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio celebrates a century of assuring all residential and business consumers access to adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices, while facilitating an environment that provides competitive choices.

Utility and transportation regulation began in Ohio in 1867 when the General Assembly established the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads and Telegraphs. With the advice and consent of the Senate, the governor appointed the commissioner for a two-year term.

The office primarily served as a fact-finding agency for the General Assembly, reporting on the physical, financial and operating conditions of railroad and telegraph companies in Ohio. In 1888 the Ohio Legislature created additional responsibilities to secure the safe operation of railroads.

Changes

In 1906 the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation restructuring the office as the Railroad Commission and expanding its duties. The legislation, known as the Railroad Act, increased the number of commissioners to three, provided for a small staff and for the first time, gave the body the authority to fix reasonable and non-discriminatory rates.

The commission was also permitted to formulate its own rules and regulations and exercise powers incidental to its hearings, such as administering oaths and keeping records.

In 1911 the Public Service Commission was established by the legislature to deal with public concerns arising outside the limited field of railroads. At that time, jurisdiction was extended to telephone, electric, gas and water companies and the commission was granted the authority to value utilities and prescribe a uniform system of accounts. The commission was authorized to approve or deny the issuance of corporate securities by public utilities and railroads.

Name change

In 1913 the name was changed to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The PUCO took on comprehensive motor bus line regulatory duties in 1921 and two years later received jurisdiction over the motor transportation of property. The PUCO began regulating wastewater companies in 1961.

Major change occurred in 1983 when the PUCO expanded from a three- to five-person commission. Commissioners remain appointed by the governor, and serve five-year terms.

Appointment

The governor makes the selection from a list of names submitted by the PUCO Nominating Council, a broad-based group charged with screening suitable candidates for the office of commissioner.

Today’s PUCO regulates providers of all kinds of utility services, including electric and natural gas companies, local and long distance telephone companies, water and wastewater companies, and rail and trucking companies.

More recently, the PUCO gained responsibility for facilitating competitive utility choices for Ohio consumers. To carry out its responsibilities, the PUCO employs a professional staff that includes engineers, economists, attorneys and safety inspectors. Continually monitoring the activities of utility and transportation companies, the PUCO works to ensure safe and reliable services for all Ohioans.

To learn more about the PUCO or answer utility-related questions or concerns, contact the PUCO at 800-686-PUCO (7826) or www.PUCO.ohio.gov.

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