This pamphlet provides an introduction to the B.C. Utilities Commission's 
Public Hearing Process why we have public hearings and how to participate.


This brochure describes the public hearing process which includes the 
initial examination of an application, where the application documents 
may be viewed, where hearings are to be held, the roles of Commission 
Counsel and staff, the sequence of procedures to be followed at the 
hearing, and the final issuance of a decision by the Commission.

	Types of Public Hearings

The Commission considers major applications through public hearings.  
Such applications include revenue requirements, rate design, certificate 
of public convenience and necessity (for significant new facilities or 
additions by utilities) major energy and other projects assigned by the 
Minister of Energy or the Lieutenant Governor in Council.  Hearings may 
also be initiated by the Commission in response to a complaint by a 
customer or an affected third party.

	The First Step

Consideration of an application is initiated when a utility files such a 
document with the Commission Secretary.  Once an application is filed, it 
becomes a public document and may be viewed by the general public.  A 
utility will normally make copies of the application available in its 
local district offices for public inspection.

	Order and Notice of Public Hearing

Once a decision has been made to hold a public hearing the Commission 
issues an Order and Notice of Public Hearing which is published in local 
newspapers in the service area of the utility.

This Order starts the public hearing process and contains information 
such as location, starting date, intervention deadline date which must be 
adhered to by the Applicant, intervenors, interested parties, and the 
Commission.  The Order often includes a list of issues that will be 

	Location of the Hearing

It is the Commission's policy to conduct public hearings in locations
where the public is most affected by the Applicant's request.  Hearings 
may then be held in different locations to accommodate local public interest
in the service area of the utility.  All hearings are open to the public.

	Availability of the Application

The hearing Order and notice advises the public where the application may 
be examined, including relevant documents.  The locations include the  
Commission's office,  the head office of the Applicant and in the major
district offices serving utility customers.

	Information Requests

Persons requiring additional information from the Applicant can make such 
a request prior to the commencement of the public hearing.  The Applicant 
will then be required to respond leaving enough time for the person to 
decide to become an intervenor or an interested party and participate in 
the public hearing.


An intervention is a document sent to the Commission to express an 
intention to participate in a public hearing.  It may take the form of a 
formal legal submission, a letter, or even a hand-written letter submitted 
by a concerned customer.  It is to be received by the Commission 
Secretary before the deadline stated in the hearing Order.

	Commission's Counsel

Commission Counsel has two main functions:   (1)  to advise the 
Commission Panel on legal matters and the conduct of the hearing; and  
(2) to cross-examine the Applicant and intervenors in order to bring out
clearly the evidence needed for the Commission Panel to arrive at a decision.

While the hearing procedures may initially seem formalistic for novices, 
most public participants quickly become comfortable and effective 
intervenors.  In that regard, it is important to recognize that legal 
representation is not necessary for effective intervention.  
Interested individuals and organizations quickly become adept at 
preparing and defending evidence, as well as cross-examining witnesses.

	Commission Staff

The main role of the staff is to brief Counsel for cross-examination.  
Staff are also available to assist intervenors when requested.

	Record of the Proceedings/Court Reporters

The Commission makes verbatim transcripts for many public hearings.  
Transcripts are available for purchase from the court reporters, or are 
available for viewing at no charge in the  Commission's Library in 
Vancouver or in the Resource Room while the hearing is underway.

	Sequence of Procedures at the Public Hearing

The Commission's public hearing process is  relatively formal and is similar
to that of a court.  Testimony is provided by witnesses under oath or
affirmation.  Witnesses are subject to cross-examination.  While most
intervenors are represented by counsel, it is by no means essential for
participants to have their own lawyer.  It has often been the case that full 
participation has been made by members of the public at large who are not 
familiar with the process.

A pre-hearing conference conducted by Commission staff is sometimes held 
to resolve procedural questions before the start of the hearing and in 
some cases to clarify the scope of the hearing.

At the commencement of the hearing the Chairperson of the Commission 
Panel makes a brief opening statement on the application and make-up of 
the Panel.  Next, the Applicant files proof of having complied with the 
Commission's requirements for publication of the hearing notice and service of 
copies of the application on various parties.

The Applicant then presents its case through a series of witnesses or 
panels of witnesses.   After the Applicant's counsel has completed examination
of each of the Applicant's witnesses or panels, each intervenor in turn is
given the opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses.  Commission Counsel
usually cross-examines last.  The Panel may then ask questions.  The Applicant
is given an opportunity to re-examine his witness.  Intervenors may then
present their own evidence through one or more witness panels.  These panels
can also be cross-examined.

After all parties have presented their evidence, the hearing enters  the 
final argument stage.  The Applicant's argument is presented first, argument
from the intervenors follows.  Finally, the Applicant is given an opportunity
to present reply argument.  The Commission will decide whether to have final
argument by way of oral presentations at the hearing, or in writing. 
Intervenors and the Applicant, are given a deadline for written argument.

Once all argument is finished, the hearing is adjourned.

	The Decision

The Hearing is concluded when the Commission Panel issues its decision on 
the application.  The decision is based only on the evidence presented 
during the public hearing.

Decisions of the Commission are available free of charge upon request and 
are sent to all participants of the public hearing.

Commission Contact

For further information please write or phone:

Robert J. Pellatt, Commission Secretary
B.C. Utilities Commission
Box 250, 900 Howe Street, Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2N3
Telephone (604) 660-4700
Facsimile (604) 660-1102
B.C. Toll-Free 1-800-663-1385

The following brochures are also available from the Commission upon request:

- An Introduction to the B.C. Utilities Commission
- Complaint Handling Procedures