May 25, 2017

Wyden Joins Shaheen, Colleagues to Introduce 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. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and their colleagues to reintroduce 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-Minn., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., are co-sponsors. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., introduced companion legislation, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H., in the House of Representatives.

“Ever since I was chair of the Energy Committee, I have insisted that FERC operate in a bipartisan manner with a deliberative process that includes thorough consideration of local concerns,” Wyden said. “While FERC has a longstanding history of independence and broad stakeholder engagement, this bill would ensure local voices are part of the equation when it comes to FERC’s decision making process.”

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.