Letters From the West

Idaho PUC celebrates 100th birthday

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

The three-member commission, now including Marsha Smith, Mack Redford and Paul Kjellander, was established by the Idaho Legislature in its 12th session. It was organized on May 8, 1913.

The Progressive era was in full bloom and lawmakers were reacting to price gouging and poor services by local water, electric and other utilities who had a monopoly over entire communities.

The commission oversees the intrastate operation of investor-owned electric, gas,
water, telecommunications utilities, pipelines, and railroads. The commission does not regulate publicly owned municipal, or cooperative utilities, whose customers can vote out he city leaders or boards of directors who run them.

The commissioners are appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation, which gives them a buffer from politics but by no means shields them from it. When the Idaho Statesman polled likely voters in the last election asking if they approve or disapprove of the Idaho Public Utility Commission’s performance regulating electricity rates and protecting customers, 61 percent said they approve and only 20 percent disapproved.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West