Public hearings about SCE&G rates related to the VC Summer will be held over the next few weeks. Energy Consumers of the Carolinas believes that real value can result from these hearings. Or, they can exacerbate problems. Depends on the input and manner of input.
First, the facts. According to the SC Public Service Commission webpage:
The following hearings will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the locations as follows:
- Monday, September 24, 2018, Public Service Commission, Hearing Room, Synergy Business Park, Saluda Building, 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia, South Carolina 29210
- Monday, October 08, 2018, Aiken County Government Center, 1930 University Parkway, Council Chambers, 3rd Floor, Aiken, South Carolina 29801
- Monday, October 15, 2018, Lonnie Hamilton III, Public Services Building, 4045 Bridgeview Drive, North Charleston, South Carolina 29405
Says the Commission: “Persons who wish to testify before the Public Service Commission regarding the above named dockets may do so at these hearings. Individuals shall be permitted a maximum of three (3) minutes for oral presentations. To testify as a public witness, you must provide your name legibly on the Sign-In Sheet available at the hearing location, and indicate that you wish to testify. All testimony will be given under oath and entered into the record of the case, subject to objection by the parties.”
Energy Consumers of the Carolinas encourages people who are customers of SCE&G to attend a public meeting. It is each person’s right. This is a public meeting, though in a real sense, it is business, or at least something that should be approached by everyone in a businesslike and information-building way. Professional. Respectful. That leads to the next point.
Second, some observations about public meetings. A public hearing is a time when citizens can go beyond the voting booth, emails, letters or phone calls to communicate with officials who make decisions. Advantages of public meetings are:
- Introduces a project or issue to a community
- Provides all participants a chance to voice their concerns, issues, and ideas
- Disseminates detailed information and decisions throughout the community
- Provides opportunities for exploring alternative strategies and building consensus
- Can create consensus for action on complex issues that require broad-based community input
Do public comments matter? Yes. Public comments are valuable because they give a public service commission a sense of the impacts of a decision. They provide to the PSC a gauge of public understanding of the process and underlying issues. Most importantly – they bring up related issues that require PSC attention. Public comments can inform and enlighten. (These concepts from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.)
These meetings are a chance to further an issue through constructive discussion; show thoughtfulness in the way a point is made. How a person handles him or herself counts for a lot when it comes to changing another person’s mind. Here’s the way that entrepreneur magazine said it in, 15 Traits That Set Influential People Apart: “They speak thoughtfully and listen. They mean what they say. Influential people don’t engage in gossip or unfounded attacks on other people. They seek to rise above the petty. To become influential, you must create clear and concise messages and make sure you are effectively communicating your ideas. Just as important, influential people know when to quiet their inner dialogue and put the focus on those around them. This is the best way to gain insights and information you might otherwise miss.”
Some people see public meetings as a forum to vent anger. Maybe even to play for a headline. The best results come from discussion, active listening and useful feedback. It is an opportunity for an average citizen to become more influential. A government body is supposed to have this kind of meeting with the intent of making a best-possible decision, building dialogue and hearing good ideas. Its decision can rely, in part, by the usefulness and potency of the facts it hears. With useful input there is the best chance of well-reasoned, quality output.