In 1911, the CPUC was established by Constitutional Amendment as the Railroad Commission. In 1912, the Legislature passed the Public Utilities Act, expanding the Commission's regulatory authority to include natural gas, electric, telephone, and water companies as well as railroads and marine transportation companies. In 1946, the Commission was renamed the California Public Utilities Commission.
The Governor appoints the five Commissioners, who must be confirmed by the Senate, for six year staggered terms. The Governor appoints one of the five to serve as Commission President. The CPUC employs economists, engineers, administrative law judges, accountants, lawyers, and safety and transportation specialists. The Commission is currently organized into several advisory units, an enforcement division, and a strategic planning group. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates is an independent arm of the CPUC that represents consumers in Commission proceedings, pursuant to statute. The Commission also has a Public Advisor who assists the public in participating in Commission proceedings, and a unit that is charged with informally resolving consumer complaints.