Shaheen Reintroduces Legislation to Boost Public Participation in Approval of Energy Projects and Rates
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced legislation to create an Office of Public Participation and Consumer Advocacy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). As one of the lead agencies responsible for developing energy infrastructure and ensuring reliability of the electric grid, FERC has sweeping authority over the wholesale power markets and ultimate jurisdiction in the federal siting and permitting process for natural gas pipelines. While FERC’s decisions determine which energy projects are constructed and significantly influence the energy prices consumers pay, private citizens have expressed frustration that participating in FERC’s complex proceedings is extremely challenging.
The Public Engagement at FERC Act will assist residential and small commercial energy consumers in participating in FERC proceedings, ensuring the public has a strong role in shaping the nation’s energy future. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are co-sponsors. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Decisions made by FERC impact Americans’ daily lives, yet people in New Hampshire and across the country are forced to navigate a needlessly complex and expensive process if they wish to participate in the agency’s proceedings,” said Senator Shaheen. “It is essential that the public play a strong role in shaping our nation’s energy future. This legislation would strengthen public involvement and ensure that the agency is making decisions that are in the best interest of those who will be most impacted.”
“People should be able to submit input on large-scale energy projects that will impact their communities, but right now their voices are being suppressed by a needlessly complex set of proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Senator Hassan said. “This bill would create a separate agency at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to help ensure that the voices of all New Hampshire communities are heard, and I look forward to working with Senator Shaheen to get this bill across the finish line.”
In 1978, Congress authorized FERC to create an Office of Public Participation under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) that would assist public and consumer advocates in intervening at FERC. While the authorization has been in effect for nearly 40 years, the Office of Public Participation was never created. The Public Engagement at FERC Act would update and strengthen the 1978 PURPA language to facilitate advocacy at the agency on behalf of residential and small commercial energy consumers.
Specifically, the Public Engagement at FERC Act would:
- Establish an office that would directly participate in FERC proceedings on rates, service, and infrastructure siting to represent the interests of residential and small commercial consumers.
- Employ directed outreach methods, such as consultation services and technical assistance, to ensure the interests of the public are adequately represented at FERC.
- Create a Public and Consumer Advocacy Advisory Committee for the office composed of representatives from the national and state-based nongovernmental consumer advocacy community.
- Prepare reports and issue guidance for potential improvements to industry and FERC practices to better incorporate the public voice.
- Provide intervener funding to individuals or small commercial energy consumer groups to encourage their participation in FERC proceedings.
Bill text of the Public Engagement at FERC Act can be found here. The bill is supported by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, the National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates and several additional organizations listed here.
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