- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Leads Coalition Calling on FERC to Improve Public Engagement and Outreach
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today led a coalition of nine attorneys general and the Maine Office of the Public Advocate as well as the Maryland People’s Counsel in issuing recommendations to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on how to establish and operate a new Office of Public Participation (OPP) that will encourage more equal and active engagement by community members, consumers, and businesses in energy decision making.
In the comments filed with FERC Friday, the coalition asserts that there are significant barriers to stakeholders participating in FERC proceedings, with a perception that the Commission does not welcome or meaningfully consider input from anyone other than market participants. Overcoming these barriers will require financial support programs, targeted education and accessibility initiatives, and new types of outreach and engagement tools.
“My office hears time and time again from Massachusetts consumers and community groups who want to have a say in their energy future but are frustrated by FERC processes,” AG Healey said. “Creating the Office of Public Participation is an opportunity for FERC to encourage and meaningfully consider input from the people directly impacted by its decisions—not just companies with deep pockets and fancy lawyers.”
In the letter the coalition writes, “Greater public engagement, and the Commission’s embrace of that engagement, are critical steps toward the Commission’s goal of better incorporating environmental justice and energy justice concerns into its decisionmaking processes.”
The coalition specifically calls for the OPP to:
- Develop public participation plans for FERC proceedings;
- Draw lessons from successful state intervenor funding programs and public education initiatives;
- Employ staff in each region dedicated to enhancing regional grid governance;
- Support and collaborate with state consumer advocates; and
- Implement new accessibility initiatives, such as telephone hotlines, appointment of public liaisons, better materials for non-English language speakers, easy-to-understand guides and internet tools, and more public input opportunities.
The Federal Power Act requires FERC to establish an OPP to coordinate assistance to people who seek to participate in proceedings before the Commission, but FERC never committed to opening the OPP until now. Earlier this month, Rebecca Tepper, Chief of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau delivered remarks at a FERC virtual workshop about how the OPP can serve and educate the public about FERC’s processes and provide for meaningful participation in public proceedings. In her remarks, Tepper encouraged FERC to create an OPP that encourages and makes public participation easier for people by providing access in multiple languages and scheduling meetings at times that are convenient for working consumers, as well as providing virtual options for meetings.
AG Healey is committed to ensuring access to clean electricity at affordable prices for all Massachusetts ratepayers, and to working with other state attorneys general and consumer advocates to foster greater participation, transparency, and consideration of environmental and energy justice in FERC proceedings.
In 2019, AG Healey launched a public education campaign to raise awareness about the role of the power markets in New England’s transition to affordable clean energy and to provide the public with tools for meaningful participation in relevant discussions at FERC and ISO New England. The AG’s Office produced two educational videos and a petition that urged Massachusetts consumers to call on ISO-New England to set market rules that support cleaner energy resources. Approximately 1,500 people signed on in support. On December 9, 2020, AG Healey convened a virtual public teach-in on the power markets for approximately 300 people.
Joining AG Healey in today’s comments to FERC are the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, as well as the Maine Office of the Public Advocate and Maryland People’s Counsel.
This matter is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Megan Herzog, Assistant Attorney General Christina Belew, and Chief Rebecca Tepper of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau.