How to give effective public testimony to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Ratepayers and other members of the general public can play an important role in building the record upon which Idaho Public Utilities Commission decisions are based. Decisions of the commission must be based upon findings of fact that, in turn, must rest upon testimony and evidence entered into the official record of the case being considered.
The following guidelines will help you prepare effective testimony to the commission, whether you give it orally at a hearing or submit it in writing:
- Tell what you know. Speak or write from your personal experience. As in a court of law, hearsay has limited value to the commission. Comments based upon your personal experience and knowledge are much more valuable than repeating what you have heard from others. If you know of someone with important information or relevant experience, try to get them to testify or write to the commission themselves.
- Remember what is at issue in the case and address your comments to those issues. The commission staff can provide the background and outline the issues of each case the commission is considering. For most hearings, a fact sheet is prepared that sketches the background, highlights the major issues, and outlines the position of the commission staff.
- Don't be repetitious. If you agree with what someone else has said, say so; but don't repeat the same points in detail. If you can add to a point made by someone else, do so with your personal knowledge or experience; but try not to replow ground already covered.
- Don't question the integrity of the commission, its individual members, or its staff. No matter what you may feel about a past decision, each case must be considered on its own merits and must be decided on its own record, going forward. While it may not always be immediately apparent, the commission and its staff work hard to try to reach just and reasonable decisions which balance the interests of the utility, its ratepayers, and the overall public interest of the people of Idaho.
- When you take the stand, you will be sworn in to assure that your testimony is truthful. You will also be asked to spell your name, give your address, and tell whether you are a customer of the utility whose case is being considered.
- You may be questioned. Your testimony may raise questions needing clarification. Any formal party to the case, the commission staff, or the commissioners themselves may ask you questions about your testimony. However, unless you have formally intervened in the case and become a formal party yourself, you may not ask questions of other witnesses.
- For more information about the commission, its staff, and how they operate, read the commission's Annual Report.