Overview

The AUC is committed to ensuring that Albertans whose rights may be affected by an AUC decision about a utility application have the opportunity to have their concerns heard, understood and considered.

The AUC will hold a public hearing when issues arising from an application cannot be otherwise resolved. A hearing brings all parties involved together to publicly express their views and present their evidence in support of, or in opposition to an application. Public hearings are held before a Commission panel in a fair and orderly forum similar to a court of law. This process allows the AUC to make a fully informed decision.

Opening remarks

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The panel chair opens the hearing by introducing the AUC staff in attendance, covering administrative matters, briefly outlining the general purpose of the hearing and then asks those in attendance to identify themselves as participants in the hearing.

Preliminary matters

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The panel chair provides information about procedural and legal matters that were communicated to Commission legal staff before the start of the hearing. These may involve adjournment requests (requests to delay the hearing) or requests to schedule a specific witness at a specific time. In some cases, preliminary matters are addressed during a hearing break to be more efficient with hearing time. The panel chair then asks if there are any other preliminary matters before moving on.

Applicant presents its case

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The applicant, or company requesting approval for a utility project or rate application, will have a lawyer (or lawyers) who will represent them. In addition, they will have a witness panel sworn in and seated at the front of the hearing room on either the left or right side of the panel members and directly across from AUC staff. The applicant’s witness panel usually includes its staff members and consultants who prepared the application or who can defend evidence submitted with the application. This portion of the hearing begins with a court reporter swearing in the witness panel. The lawyer representing the applicant then presents a brief summary outlining its case. Then the applicant asks questions of its own witnesses to cross-examine them and provide clarity about any issues or questions that came up prior to the hearing or that the applicant wants to clarify through oral testimony.

The interveners, each in turn—as determined by the AUC in advance of the hearing or as determined during the preliminary matters—then question (or cross-examine the applicant’s witness panel) to address any outstanding questions, concerns or other matters.

The AUC staff and then panel members can then question the applicant’s witnesses.

The applicant’s lawyer then has a final chance to ask the applicant witness panel questions to clarify any other questions that arise from intervener or AUC questions.

If there is more than one applicant involved in the proceeding, the next applicant then seats its witness panel and follows this same process. Once the applicant’s witness panel is excused, there is no other opportunity to question the applicant.

Interveners present their cases

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In order of the appearance, determined prior to the hearing or during the preliminary matters, each intervener (or intervener group) has an opportunity to seat a witness panel and have them sworn in. The witness panel may include consultants or experts in land values, environment, noise, farming or agriculture, economics or other experts that can help support the interveners’ position. The landowners representing themselves in the hearing will be sworn in as witnesses to state their cases during the hearing. For landowners who have hired a lawyer to represent them they may or may not be sworn in as a witness. After the intervener gives direct evidence, the lawyer for the applicant may question the intervener, followed by the other interveners who wish to cross-examine. The round of questioning is wrapped up with AUC lawyer’s questions and then panel members before the interveners’ witness panel steps down and the next intervener (or group of interveners) present their case.

Applicant provides rebuttal evidence

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The applicant can present evidence to refute evidence presented by interveners’ and their witnesses and to submit additional evidence to address new points raised by interveners.

Final argument or summation

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After the applicant and the interveners participating in the hearing present their evidence and the questioning has concluded each participant has an opportunity to provide final argument or summarize their position. This is the final opportunity to ensure that the AUC and all participants understand the position on the issues. Final argument starts with the applicant and is followed by the interveners. If something new is raised by the interveners during final argument and summation the applicant responds to the intervener’s arguments.

In rates proceedings, the final argument is typically a written process that often involves very lengthy final submissions.

Close of the hearing

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The hearing is formally adjourned when the panel chair announces that the hearing is complete.

Decision

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The AUC’s written decision is generally issued no more than 90 days after the close of the hearing or the close of record (when final arguments are received). The AUC will include the issues considered with reasons in its decision.

Frequently asked questions

Who is the panel chair?

The panel chair is a Commission member that is leading the proceeding (and hearing if applicable) in a judge-like capacity.

What is a hearing panel?

The hearing panel are members of the Commission who have been appointed by the Alberta government to make decisions about utility matters within the Alberta Utilities Commission’s jurisdiction. The Chair of the Commission assigns a panel to review an application considered through a proceeding. It is quite common that three Commission members are assigned to consider an application through a proceeding, but the number of Commission members assigned can vary.

Who are interveners?

An intervener is any third party (person or group) who is given permission by the Commission to participate in the AUC proceeding to consider an application filed. The Commission makes a standing decision about all people and groups wishing to participate in a proceeding to consider a submitted application. Generally, the Commission considers a person or group to have standing if they have rights that may be directly and adversely affected by the Commission’s decision about the application. Any person or group who wishes to participate in a proceeding to consider an application must have standing, but the review process and hearing is public and anyone can observe and attend the hearing.

Who are local interv​eners?

A local intervener is a person or group with an interest in land who occupies or is entitled to occupy that land, that is or may be directly and adversely affected by the Commission’s decision on an electric or natural gas facility application. Local interveners may have the option to hire a lawyer and/or experts and obtain funding to support their position. In order to participate in a hearing or proceeding.

How is the order of appearance (for interveners) determined?

The order of appearances varies depending on the application and the number of interveners. Please contact the assigned AUC staff on the proceeding for more information.

What is a witness panel?

The applicant’s witness panel usually includes its staff members and consultants who prepared the application or who can defend evidence submitted with the application.

Why are witnesses sworn in?

This is an oath or affirmation from the witness that they will tell the truth during their testimony. The information they provide during the hearing is bound by the witnesses commitment to tell the truth and if untruthful testimony is provided it can result in being charged with perjury.

Why do people stand when the hearing panel enters or leaves the room?

This is a procedural tradition that indicates respect for the system, the process and the authority of the Commission to make decisions.

Where do I find information about the hearing and proceeding process?

AUC Rule 001: Rules of Practice provides directions for any type of proceeding considered by the Commission. The rule provides explanations and outlines what must be done when a variety of situations arise during a proceeding. The AUC expects that applicants and participants are familiar with the information and direction provided in Rule 001.

How long does a public hearing last?

Every case is unique; hearings may last anywhere from one day to several weeks, depending on the nature of the application and the complexity of the issues.

Can anyone attend a hearing?

Yes, AUC hearings are open to the public. You can attend in person or listen to a hearing using the live audio stream or archived audio files which are kept for up to 30 days.