Laura Schwartz, program evaluation manager for the Legislative Audit Commission, will lead the team reviewing the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC’s) public engagement process. That is one of five research topics the Audit Commission approved this year.
It will investigate three questions, according to the Commission’s one-page summary:
- What are the PUC’s rules for public participation?
- To what extent does the PUC enforce these rules appropriately and consistently?
- How do the PUC’s rules affect the extent to which the public can participate in the Commission’s decision-making process?
The PUC came under criticism during the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline case over how staff treated the public, including the use of an intimidating police presence. (Details here: PUC Staff Oversteps Authority, Shows Bias Against Pipeline Resisters.)
Audit Commission staff is in the early stages of its work, learning about the topic, determining the project’s scope, and refining the research questions, Schwartz said. People interested in commenting on the project’s scope and questions can email her directly at Laura.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The review will not look at the whether the PUC made a correct decision on a particular case, but will focus on public engagement.
At some point soon, the Audit Commission will create an on-line link on its website for people to submit comments, Schwartz said In a month or so, staff will hold a public forum to give people the opportunity to express their concerns. Staff will reach out to stakeholders and do one-on-one interviews. People also can email her directly with comments and concerns about the PUC’s process.
A report is expected in early 2020, in time for the next legislative session.
The Audit Commission consists of six House and six Senate members, with equal representation from both political parties. Each year, it selects a handful of research topics to make sure state programs are well run, are accountable and have appropriate legislative oversight.