The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC), created in 1924, is the oldest utility consumer advocacy office of its kind in the United States. The People’s Counsel is appointed by the Attorney General, with the advice and consent of the Senate, and acts independently of the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Office of Attorney General. OPC is a State of Maryland agency, yet works independently to represent Maryland’s residential consumers of electric, natural gas, telecommunications, private water and certain transportation matters before the PSC, federal regulatory agencies and the courts. Every day OPC’s staff members address issues affecting the cost, quality of service and adequate supply of these utility services. As such OPC’s advocacy touches the lives of every resident of Maryland.
OPC functions primarily as a law office, employing a staff of 20, and retains expert consultants to provide technical assistance and expert testimony. These consultants are highly qualified accounting, engineering and economic experts who provide technical assistance, prepare reports and appear as expert witnesses before the PSC and federal agencies. These experts are absolutely critical to OPC’s ability to represent consumers.
Because it is a state agency, funding for OPC is included in the state budget proposed by the Governor and approved by the General Assembly. However, the State’s General Fund is fully reimbursed for OPC’s expenses from revenue collected in the Public Utility Regulation Fund. These revenues are collected from all regulated utility companies and licensed energy suppliers.