Regulators Gone Wild

In 2013 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission slapped an energy company with two separate $500,000 fines for a natural gas explosion that killed five people in Allentown. You know, killed.  As in dead. These are people just like those from your neighborhood. $1M dollars total.

In 2016 the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the same regulator, fined Uber $11.4 million for providing rides to people in PA without state permission. Rides. You know, like the kind you give your kid to baseball practice daily. Rides. $11.4 million. For a mile or two.

If the massive difference seems strange to you, well you’re in good company. Two of the regulators current commissioners were even opposed to the fine. Or maybe, they should have been opposed to how low the fine was for the energy companies.

What are the energies at play here? Why was the energy company given a pass and Uber hit so hard with the fine? Are there dollars behind the scenes? Well, one would never suggest that, because it would just be speculation of course. It could also be inertia where this-is-the-way-we-have-always-fined-the-gas-companies, so it is a “reasonable fine.” That is the way we do it in Pennsylvania and if the gas company appeals former fines will be what they would point back to as precedence.

Entrepreneurs have a serious up-hill battle when they look to disrupt entrenched thinking. Trying to change the way products or services are made, consumed, or both, forces people to do things differently, and that requires a delicate approach to the existing systems of power that are in place, and those who don’t want to lose their power–their perception of power actually.