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May 5, 2009
  State Regulatory Relations  
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State Regulatory Relations

Commissioner Powelson

Commissioner Powelson

Commissioner Powelson Confirmed for Five-Year Term

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced on Wednesday, April 22 that the Senate unanimously confirmed Commissioner Robert F. Powelson to a full five-year term. One day earlier, on Tuesday, April 21, the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee unanimously reported Gov. Rendell’s nomination of Commissioner Powelson out of committee.

“It has been my honor to serve on the Commission this past year alongside my colleagues, Chairman Jim Cawley, Vice Chairman Ty Christy, and Commissioners Kim Pizzingrilli and Wayne Gardner,” Commissioner Powelson said in his testimony on April 21. “I thank each of them for their example of public service, and I also thank each of the Commission’s employees for the work they do every day as we work to meet the challenges before us.

“During my past nine months as a Public Utility Commissioner, it has become clear to me that the Commission stands at a crossroads in managing the regulatory landscape here in the Commonwealth,” Commissioner Powelson said in his testimony Tuesday. “From electric rate mitigation and the development of renewable resources in the energy sector to statewide broadband deployment in the telecommunications arena, we have no room for error in tackling these important issues.”

In 2008, Commissioner Powelson was nominated for, and confirmed to finish, the remaining nine months of an expiring term on the Public Utility Commission. On Feb. 12, 2009, Gov. Rendell re-nominated Commissioner Powelson, this time to serve a full five-year term.

Prior to his appointment to the Public Utility Commission, Powelson served as the President and CEO of the Chester County Chamber of Business & Industry, a 1,600-member business organization based in Malvern.


Social Security Numbers Not Required

The Florida Public Service Commission has held that a utility may not require an applicant for service to provide his/her Social Security number. Re East Marion Sanitary Systems Inc., Order No. PSC-09-0263-TRF-WU (April 27, 2009). The utility had contended that it needed such information to collect on bad debts and delinquent accounts.

The PSC disagreed:

“While there is no law prohibiting a company from requiring a Social Security number before it provides service, we find that it is bad policy to require the number before a customer obtains utility service, especially when alternate means of identification will allow the Utility to pursue bad debts.”

The Social Security administration acknowledges on its Web site:

“If a business or other enterprise asks you for your number, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested. For example, Utility companies and other services ask for a Social Security number but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means.

“To provide a customer no alternative method of proving identification other than his Social Security number removes any choice from the consumer about releasing this sensitive information due to the monopolistic nature of a utility. Further, there are customers who do not have Social Security numbers, and in those instances, this requirement would be discriminatory.”