May 25, 2017

Warren Joins Shaheen in Reintroducing Legislation to Boost Public Participation at FERC

The Public Engagement at FERC Act will assist private citizens in participating in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proceedings that impact consumers

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in reintroducing 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. And 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 Al Franken (D-MN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are co-sponsors. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced companion legislation, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH), in the House of Representatives.

"For too long, FERC has rubberstamped an industry wish list and ignored concerned voices of Massachusetts citizens - citizens who do not want natural gas compressor stations built in their backyards or pipeline companies bulldozing state forests," said Senator Warren.  "This legislation will ensure Massachusetts families have a pro-consumer, pro-community voice at the heart of FERC's decision-making process."

"FERC's decision-making greatly affects American citizens and small businesses, yet residents in New Hampshire and across the country must navigate a needlessly complicated and expensive process if they wish to participate in the agency's proceedings," said Senator Shaheen. "Public participation is a cornerstone of our democracy, whether it's in Congress, the State House or federal agencies. The Public Engagement at FERC Act would help foster greater public involvement and consumer advocacy in our nation's energy regulation and power system, ensuring that the agency's decisions are informed by the voices of those who will be most affected."

"It is critical that local communities have the opportunity to raise concerns about potential environmental and public health and safety impacts of large-scale energy projects," said Senator Maggie Hassan. "Unfortunately, right now individuals must wade through a difficult and hard to navigate FERC process. I will work with Senator Shaheen to pass the Public Engagement at FERC Act, which will help ensure that the voices of all New Hampshire communities are heard."

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 better ensure that the Commission is making decisions that are in the best interest of those who will be most impacted.

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 intervenor funding to individuals or small commercial energy consumer groups to encourage their participation in FERC proceedings.