Jan. 29, 2019

FERC Rejection of New England Committee Press Ban Is Victory, but General Public Still in the Dark

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Note: Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a request by the New England Power Pool Participants Committee (NEPOOL) to ban members of the press from becoming NEPOOL members. Public Citizen in July asked FERC to require NEPOOL to open its meetings to journalists and the public.

Today marks a partial victory for the public and the freedom of the press, as FERC rejected a proposal by NEPOOL to ban journalists from becoming members. NEPOOL holds meetings at which electric rate policy is set for six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. It’s critical that the public know what is being debated, and media coverage is key to that. The proposed press ban by NEPOOL was indefensible, and so it is a victory that FERC categorically rejected it.

However, FERC’s order is narrow. It applies only to banning journalists from being NEPOOL members. FERC declined to issue a broader rule on NEPOOL’s current policy of banning the general public from attending meetings where proposals to change New England’s power market rules are developed, deliberated and voted upon. FERC’s order also means that the only way for journalists to attend NEPOOL meetings is to pay $500 for a membership.

NEPOOL is the official organization tasked by FERC to develop electric rate policy for all of New England. It is outrageous that, despite today’s FERC order, NEPOOL is still free to ban the general public from attending meetings, and journalists cannot attend meetings unless they pay a membership fee. Meetings at which billions of dollars in electric rate policy are developed must be open to the public and the media.