Consumer commission considers restructuring staff

LAWRENCEVILLE - A state commission that shields Georgia consumers from unfair utility rates is considering an overhaul to its staff that battles the price hikes.

The proposal, which comes as winter heating bills skyrocket, is to review the Public Service Commission's system of handling a utility company's rate increase request.

That review could include changes to the Commission's "adversary staff," made up primarily of utility analysts and engineers whose job is to examine - and often poke holes in - a company's argument for increasing rates.

The Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes Thursday. The meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. at the Commission offices at 244 Washington St., near the state Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

In recent weeks, the Commission has received criticism from Georgians worried the review will do away with the adversarial staff, leaving no one to back consumers against high-powered utility company lawyers.

Asked whether eliminating the adversary staff is a consideration, Public Service Commission spokesman Bill Edge said, "no."

Staff writer Dave Williams contributed to this article.