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New state Consumer Advocate aims to be 'the consumer's voice' on utility issues

Multiple electric meters on the side of a building.
Allyson Ruggieri
90.5 WESA

Patrick Cicero spends a lot of time thinking about your utility bills.

Cicero, 46, is the Consumer Advocate of Pennsylvania; he was confirmed by the state Senate last month.

The Office of Consumer Advocate is a state agency, created by the General Assembly in 1976, housed within the Office of Attorney General.

Patrick Cicero is the Consumer Advocate of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed June 7, 2022.
Courtesy of Patrick Cicero
Patrick Cicero is the Consumer Advocate of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed June 7, 2022.

The office represents consumers before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in regulation and rate cases involving electricity, natural gas, regulated water and wastewater utilities, and traditional landline telephone service. It aims to be “the consumer’s voice” in utility cases and policy debates.

“When [a utility] comes in for a large rate case, our office intervenes and files a complaint,” Cicero said.

“And we look under the hood, so to speak, to make sure that the rate of return that they're requesting or the costs that they're requesting are just and reasonable — that they're justified by the kind of investments that the utility's going to be making.”

Cicero said his new role requires balancing needed infrastructure investments with affordability.

“All of us want to enjoy the benefits of safe, reliable electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater service, as well as telecommunications,” he said. “And that obviously involves an investment of capital. It involves investment of money to make sure that our system can deliver energy, water [and] wastewater effectively.”

Cicero acknowledges that the role brings with it a host of new challenges, including issues around utility affordability amid increasing inflation; potential privatization of municipal water utilities; and a national push around electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

“We have aging infrastructure, both aging gas, natural gas infrastructure. We have aging water and wastewater infrastructure. And given the desire to electrify more of our economy, we have transmission infrastructure, getting the electricity to the right places across the commonwealth, as well as in our region,” he said.

“All of that requires an investment, and so my office has to look at that and say, ‘OK, we want to make sure that Pennsylvania consumers have access to reliable and safe energy, water, wastewater and telecommunications.’ But the question comes in: At what cost? So, the balance is, how do you do that? How do you build out appropriately, equitably, and adequately — at the same time ensuring that the rates are reasonable and affordable?”

Cicero, of Mechanicsburg, is the state’s first confirmed Consumer Advocate in roughly a decade. His predecessor held the role in an acting capacity. He previously served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, and before that, as executive director of the Pennsylvania Utility Law Project, which aids low-income utility consumers.

Pennsylvanians can contact the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate with a utility complaint at 717-783-5048 or 800-684-6560 or email Consumer shopping guides are available at

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.