KENNEDY BILL TO PROTECT ENERGY CONSUMERS PASSES COMMITTEE
Washington, DC – With New England ratepayers facing the highest energy bills in the continental United States, Congressman Joe Kennedy III today ushered his legislation ensuring they have a voice in the energy regulatory process through the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Passed with unanimous bipartisan support, the Fair Ratepayer Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency Standards (Fair RATES) Act will increase transparency in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and allow consumers to legally challenge any proposed rate increases.
“No ratepayer, whether a family, small business or local government, should ever be held voiceless in the process that determines their energy bills,” said Congressman Kennedy. “Our region’s skyrocketing, unpredictable energy prices limit the ability of consumers to save, invest and plan for the future. With FERC again down to four commissioners as they review the results of this month’s capacity auction, the Fair RATES Act will ensure a flaw in existing law does not allow our energy rates to take effect without an avenue to appeal.”
In New England, a portion of energy prices are set several years in advance via an auction process known as ‘forward capacity markets,’ to guarantee there will be enough supply to meet projected demand. The results of these auctions require approval from FERC. Over the past three years, these ‘capacity payments’ have risen dramatically. These increased capacity payments will further saddle families and businesses across the region in the coming years. Kennedy’s bill would fix a technical flaw in the current regulatory process that denies consumers both an administrative and legal avenue to dispute rate increases in certain circumstances. Senator Edward J. Markey recently introduced a companion version of the bill in the United States Senate.
Congressman Kennedy has been a vocal critic of New England’s energy auctions since taking office. After the FERC deadlocked when reviewing the rates from FCA8 which tripled the capacity rates consumers will begin paying next year, Kennedy and Markey led their New England colleagues in urging the Commission to carefully examine the capacity shortfall. Earlier this month, they also wrote a letter to President Obama highlighting the vacancy at FERC that limits the commission’s ability to rule whether rates are just and reasonable.