§24-2-3. General power of commission with respect to rates.

     (a) The commission shall have power to enforce, originate, establish, change and promulgate tariffs, rates, joint rates, tolls and schedules for all public utilities except for water and/or sewer utilities that are political subdivisions of this state providing a separate or combined services and having at least four thousand five hundred customers and annual combined gross revenues of $3 million or more: Provided, That the commission may exercise such rate authority over municipally owned electric or natural gas utilities or a municipally owned water and/or sewer utility having less than four thousand five hundred customers and $3 million dollars annual combined gross revenues, only under the circumstances and limitations set forth in section four-b of this article. And whenever the commission shall, after hearing, find any existing rates, tolls, tariffs, joint rates or schedules enacted or maintained by a utility regulated under the provisions of this section to be unjust, unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory or otherwise in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, the commission shall by an order fix reasonable rates, joint rates, tariffs, tolls or schedules to be followed in the future in lieu of those found to be unjust, unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory or otherwise in violation of any provisions of law, and the said commission, in fixing the rate of any railroad company, may fix a fair, reasonable and just rate to be charged on any branch line thereof, independent of the rate charged on the main line of such railroad.

     (b) In determining just and reasonable rates, the commission may audit and investigate management practices and policies, or have performed an audit and investigation of such practices and policies, in order to determine whether the utility is operating with efficiency and is utilizing sound management practices. The commission shall adopt rules and regulations setting forth the scope, frequency and application of such audits and investigations to the various utilities subject to its jurisdiction. The commission may include the cost of conducting the management audit in the cost of service of the utility.

     (c) In determining just and reasonable rates, the commission shall investigate and review transactions between utilities and affiliates. The commission shall limit the total return of the utility to a level which, when considered with the level of profit or return the affiliate earns on transactions with the utility, is just and reasonable.