In working with public utility commissions, it’s important to understand the commission’s statutory authority and, equally important, its limitations. At a meeting of multi-family housing advocates, David Farnsworth introduced fundamental aspects of utility commission practice. In regulating the activities of electricity, gas, water, and telephone service companies, utility commissions are tasked with planning system resources, setting tariffs, protecting consumers, ensuring reliability, and providing fair and open access to the decision-making process. Yet they may only exercise the authority expressly granted them by statute. Any issues outside of this statutory power are referred to the courts.