Legislation would ensure ratepayers could protest a rate change filed with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Washington (February 2, 2016) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, today introduced the Fair Ratepayer, Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency Standards (RATES) Act, legislation that would ensure that consumers can protest any energy rate change filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The general public has an avenue to protest a rate change filed with FERC through the Federal Power Act (FPA), which allows new rate changes to take effect if FERC approves them or fails to issue an order either approving or denying filed rates. However, if a vacancy on the Commission leads it to be deadlocked, rate decisions become effective by operation of law even though they are not approved by a majority of commissioners, thereby depriving the public of its ability to challenge decisions because FERC did not issue an official order. The Fair RATES Act would fix such a situation, which we saw in New England in 2014, by stating the a rate change that becomes effective by operation of law is the equivalent of FERC issuing an order.
Congressman Joe Kennedy (MA-04) previously introduced a version of this bill in the House of Representatives.
“The public deserves to have an appropriate role in reviewing any proposed rate changes submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the ability to protest rates if warranted,” said Senator Markey. “However, in cases where FERC is deadlocked, the public loses their ability to challenge decisions. In baseball, a tie goes to the runner, but when it comes to energy rates at FERC, a tie goes against the public. This legislation would remedy this situation to protect ratepayers. I thank Congressman Kennedy for continuing to work with me on these important issues to protect ratepayers in Massachusetts and across New England.”
“Consumers should never be held voiceless in the process that determines their energy rates,” said Congressman Kennedy. “By introducing a Senate companion of the Fair RATES Act, Senator Markey is adding his unparalleled record of advocacy for our ratepayers to this legislation. With increasing bipartisan support in the House and Senator Markey’s version of the bill in the Senate, we can ensure consumers always have an avenue to appeal when federal regulators determine whether their rates are truly just and reasonable.”
A copy of the Fair RATES Act can be found HERE.
Today, Congressman Kennedy and Senator Markey wrote to President Obama highlighting the current and expected vacancies at FERC. The five-member independent agency is already without one commissioner with a second recently announcing his intent to step down in June. New England recently experienced the consequences of a shorthanded Commission when in 2014, after considering the results from a capacity auction, the four sitting FERC Commissioners at the time deadlocked two-to-two on whether to approve the rates.
A copy of the lawmakers’ letter to President Obama can be found HERE.