The D.C. Public Service Commission yesterday sharply curtailed the authority of Peoples Council Brian Lederer to charge utilities for his office's work in opposing utility rate increases.

The commissions's decision followed complaints by local utilities that Lederer, who is supposed to help consumers, was spending millions of dollars to oppose rate increases and his allegedly exorbitant charges eventually were passed on to consumers.

For example, in five electric rate cases, Lederer spent $1.4 million, 50 percent more than what the Public Service Commission staff spent on the same cases, a commission attorney said. In a gas rate hike case, Lederer spent 46 percent more than what the commission spent, the attorney said.

The commission ruled yesterday that Lederer no longer can charge the utilities directly but he first must file reports with the commission and ask it to make the charges for him, the attorney said. In his request Lederer must include the amount of money he wants from the utility and the purpose of the funds.

The commission also set restrictions on how the money can be used, the attorney added.

In addition, the commission said that the peoples counsel cannot charge utilities for investigations he undertakes on his own, only those that the commission has approved, the attorney said.