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Heeding Shaheen’s Call, FERC Establishes Office to Boost Public Participation at Agency

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced the creation of an Office of Public Participation (OPP). The move follows Shaheen’s call and legislation she previously introduced to enact measures that strengthen the role of residential and small commercial energy consumers in the agency’s decision-making process. 

“From determining the cost of the electric bills facing Americans to regulating our nation’s natural gas industry and oil pipelines, FERC plays a critical role in addressing America’s energy needs. Yet residents in New Hampshire and across the country must navigate a complicated and oftentimes expensive process if they wish to participate in the agency’s proceedings,” said Senator Shaheen. “FERC’s decision to establish an Office of Public Participation is a victory for the public and will help ensure they play a strong role in shaping our nation’s energy future. I’m pleased that FERC heeded my calls and will continue to ensure its decisions are informed by the voices of those who will be most affected.” 

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.

To ensure the public has a strong role in shaping the nation’s energy future, Shaheen pushed for the creation of the OPP. She had previously led a group of lawmakers in introducing the Public Engagement at FERC Act, which would require FERC not only to establish the OPP, but to also expand the office to better support the public involvement of residential and small commercial energy consumers in FERC’s siting and permitting processes. While the OPP was authorized by Congress in 1978, the office was never established. The omnibus bill signed into law in December included language based off Shaheen’s legislation that finally led to the establishment of this office and the release of guidance from FERC on how the agency plans to do this. Earlier this year, Shaheen also led a bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter to FERC outlining her legislation and successfully urged FERC to implement the rest of the policies it includes, such as: 

  • The employment of directed outreach methods, such as consultation services and technical assistance, to ensure the interests of residential and small commercial consumers are adequately represented; and 
  • The creation of a Public and Consumer Advocacy Advisory Committee for the office composed of representatives from the national and state-based nongovernmental consumer advocacy community and provide intervener funding to individuals or small commercial energy consumer groups to encourage their participation in FERC proceedings.