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MEDIA ADVISORY: Public Citizen to Tell D.C. Circuit: FERC Must Do Its Duty to Protect Consumers

Sept. 1, 2016


Public Citizen to Tell D.C. Circuit: FERC Must Do Its Duty to Protect Consumers

On Tuesday Public Citizen Argues Against Rate Hike for New England Ratepayers

WHAT: Public Citizen attorney Scott Nelson will urge the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to overturn a decision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) allowing an electricity rate increase to go into effect for the New England region.

Over the past three decades, FERC has forgone its regulatory responsibilities by increasingly turning over the job of establishing wholesale electricity rates to so-called market forces through auctions conducted by regional grid operators. In 2014, one such auction for wholesale capacity in the New England region was conducted in uncompetitive conditions and resulted in a jump in rates, estimated at $1 billion, to be charged beginning in 2017. Public Citizen and others, including Connecticut authorities, intervened before FERC to challenge the auction results as unjust and unreasonable under section 205 of the Federal Power Act.

At the time, FERC had only four commissioners, and they deadlocked 2-2 on whether to investigate the rate hike. Because FERC lacked a majority to suspend the rate or require further investigation and a hearing regarding whether the increase was lawful, the rate went into effect. Public Citizen and the Connecticut attorney general filed petitions for review in the D.C. Circuit.

FERC has argued that it took no action that is subject to review by the court and has no obligation under the Federal Power Act to determine the lawfulness of a challenged rate before letting it go into effect. The case raises important issues about whether FERC is required to protect consumers against unjust and unreasonable rates, and whether it has unlawfully given away its power to review whether a rate established by an auction is unlawful.

Find more information about Public Citizen, Inc. v. FERC.

WHEN: Arguments begin at 9:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 6

WHERE: E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, Courtroom 31 (fifth floor)

WHO: Scott L. Nelson, Public Citizen attorney