Public Utility Commission

ORS 756.040
General powers


In addition to the powers and duties now or hereafter transferred to or vested in the Public Utility Commission, the commission shall represent the customers of any public utility or telecommunications utility and the public generally in all controversies respecting rates, valuations, service and all matters of which the commission has jurisdiction. In respect thereof the commission shall make use of the jurisdiction and powers of the office to protect such customers, and the public generally, from unjust and unreasonable exactions and practices and to obtain for them adequate service at fair and reasonable rates. The commission shall balance the interests of the utility investor and the consumer in establishing fair and reasonable rates. Rates are fair and reasonable for the purposes of this subsection if the rates provide adequate revenue both for operating expenses of the public utility or telecommunications utility and for capital costs of the utility, with a return to the equity holder that is:


Commensurate with the return on investments in other enterprises having corresponding risks; and


Sufficient to ensure confidence in the financial integrity of the utility, allowing the utility to maintain its credit and attract capital.


The commission is vested with power and jurisdiction to supervise and regulate every public utility and telecommunications utility in this state, and to do all things necessary and convenient in the exercise of such power and jurisdiction.


The commission may participate in any proceeding before any public officer, commission or body of the United States or any state for the purpose of representing the public generally and the customers of the services of any public utility or telecommunications utility operating or providing service to or within this state.


The commission may make joint investigations, hold joint hearings within or without this state and issue concurrent orders in conjunction or concurrence with any official, board, commission or agency of any state or of the United States. [Amended by 1961 c.467 §1; 1971 c.655 §9; 1973 c.776 §15; 1987 c.447 §76; 1995 c.733 §53; 2001 c.569 §1]

Notes of Decisions

Where (1) a utility has purchased the bulk of its necessary equipment and supplies from an "affiliated" manufacturer and (2) due to the affiliated relationship the manufacturer has unique market power rendering a comparison of its prices and profits with those of "peripheral" manufacturers inadequate as a measure of "reasonableness" of the utility's payments to it, the utility's failure to provide additional evidence of reasonableness may justify disallowing from the utility's rate base and operating expenses the portion of the utility's payments that represent a return to the manufacturer greater than that allowed the utility itself. Pac. NW Bell Tel. Co. v. Sabin, 21 Or App 200, 534 P2d 984 (1975), Sup Ct review denied

Public Utility Commissioner has power under this section to determine unwarranted rate discrimination. American Can Co. v. Davis, 28 Or App 207, 559 P2d 898 (1977), Sup Ct review denied

The Public Utility Commissioner has authority to impose rate design different from that proposed by utility. Cascade Natural Gas Corp. v. Davis, 28 Or App 621, 560 P2d 301 (1977), Sup Ct review denied

Commissioner has been granted broad legislative authority; consequently commissioner is not obligated to employ any single formula or combination of formulas to determine what are in each case "just and reasonable" rates. Cascade Natural Gas Corp. v. Davis, 28 Or App 621, 560 P2d 301 (1977), Sup Ct review denied

Where disallowances neither violated specific statutory limits upon commissioner's otherwise plenary ratemaking power nor resulted in imposition of rates that produce taking of private property without just compensation, they were reasonable and lawful. Cascade Natural Gas Corp. v. Davis, 28 Or App 621, 560 P2d 301 (1977), Sup Ct review denied

Approval of contract between utility and "affiliated" manufacturer or of utility's annual budgets that included payments thereunder did not "estop" commissioner from disallowing portion of payments in determining "just and reasonable" rates. Cascade Natural Gas Corp. v. Davis, 28 Or App 621, 560 P2d 301 (1977), Sup Ct review denied

Public Utility Commissioner's rule, which passed on utility expenses for payment of county's net business income tax to county ratepayers only, rather than to all utility ratepayers, was valid because Commissioner is granted both broad regulatory authority over rates by this section and broad rulemaking authority by ORS 756.060. Multnomah County v. Davis, 35 Or App 521, 581 P2d 968 (1978), Sup Ct review denied

This section does not constitute clearly defined statutory grant of authority to Public Utility Commissioner for enactment of "tagline" rule which requires public utilities to tag their advertisements with statement that advertisement is paid for by either customers or stockholders. Pacific Northwest Bell v. Davis, 43 Or App 999, 608 P2d 547 (1979), Sup Ct review denied

Where telecommunications utility retained excess revenue collected under interim rate schedule that was not in compliance with authorized revenue level, PUC did not err in ordering refund. Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Co. v. Katz, 116 Or App 302, 841 P2d 652 (1992), Sup Ct review denied

Chapter 756

Notes of Decisions

Under regulatory scheme, Public Utility Commissioner has authority to promulgate rule limiting telephone company's liability for directory listing errors or omissions. Garrison v. Pacific NW Bell, 45 Or App 523, 608 P2d 1206 (1980)

Refund is proper exercise of Public Utility Commission's general powers if refund (1) is based only on information in existence at time of rate order for which refund is being made; (2) is not based on evaluation of public utility's actual expenses or revenues; and (3) is not effectuated by offsetting future rates. Gearhart v. Public Utility Commission, 255 Or App 58, 299 P3d 533 (2013), aff'd 356 Or 216, 339 P3d 904 (2014)


Last accessed
Jun. 26, 2021