Shaheen Leads Bicameral Group of Lawmakers in Calling on FERC to Boost Public Participation at Agency

April 16, 2021

**The letter comes on the heels of a FERC workshop being held today to discuss the creation of an Office of Public Participation at the agency, which Shaheen has previously advocated in favor of**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led a bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requesting the agency include measures to better support the involvement of residential and small commercial energy consumers as it works to establish the Office of Public Participation (OPP).

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 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 will now – for the first time – get this office off the ground, beginning with guidance to Congress on how FERC plans to do this. As the Biden administration moves ahead to implement the 1978 law as Congress intended, Senator Shaheen led this letter outlining her legislation and urging FERC to implement the rest of the policies it includes.

“As sponsors of the Public Engagement at FERC Act, we write to commend the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the steps you are taking to encourage and facilitate greater public involvement in FERC proceedings as directed by Congress,” wrote the lawmakers. “As the Commission determines how to fulfill its responsibility to coordinate assistance to the public, we encourage you to pay particular attention to providing residential and small commercial energy consumers a strong voice in shaping our nation’s energy future.”

The lawmakers continued, “As you work to establish an organizational structure for this office, we urge the Commission to consider measures included in the Public Engagement at FERC Act as a way to further improve public participation and remove technical barriers that may prevent consumers from making their voices heard.” Specifically, the lawmakers urged the Commission to consider measures included in the Public Engagement at FERC Act to further improve public participation and remove technical barriers that may prevent consumers from making their voices heard, including:

  • 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.

The lawmakers concluded, “As Federal policies continue to expand FERC’s impact on utility bills paid by families and small businesses, it is essential that the public play a more prominent role in decisions made by the Commission. Energy consumers have waited more than 40 years for FERC to create an office to strengthen public involvement and ensure the decisions being made are in the best interest of those who will be most impacted. We hope you will consider the priorities laid out in our legislation and establish the Office of Public Participation without delay.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.