(a) The Commission is authorized and empowered to initiate or appear in such proceedings before federal and State courts and agencies as in its opinion may be necessary to secure for the users of public utility service in this State just and reasonable rates and service; provided, however, that the Commission shall not appear in any State appellate court in support of any order or decision of the Commission entered in a proceeding in which a public utility had the burden of proof.
(b) The Commission may, when appearing before federal courts and agencies on behalf of the using and consuming public in matters relating to the wholesale rates and supply of natural gas, employ, subject to the approval of the Governor, private legal counsel and be reimbursed for any resulting legal fees and costs from past and future refunds received by the North Carolina natural gas distribution companies, and may establish procedures for those natural gas distribution companies to set aside reasonable amounts of those refunds for this purpose. The Commission is also authorized to establish procedures whereby the State may be reimbursed from past and future refunds received by the North Carolina natural gas distribution companies for travel expenses incurred by staff members of the Commission and Public Staff designated to provide assistance to the Commission's private legal counsel in natural gas matters before federal courts and agencies. (1899, c. 164, s. 14; Rev., s. 1110; 1907, c. 469, s. 5; C.S., s. 1075; 1929, c. 235; 1933, c. 134, s. 8; 1941, c. 97; 1963, c. 1165, s. 1; 1977, c. 468, s. 11; 1985, c. 312, s. 1; 1985 (Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 1014, s. 233.)