Guiding federal regulators at FERC on the new Office of Public Participation

Last month, I had the chance to participate in a long overdue event. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held its public workshop to gather feedback on the creation of the Office of Public Participation (OPP). FERC is a relatively unknown agency that plays a large role in our equitable transition to a 100% clean energy future. But past practices have failed to properly consider climate impacts, concerns of landowners, and environmental justice communities.

Although FERC is an independent agency, they have a duty to ensure that transmission lines support clean energy deployment, and most importantly that power market regulations align with the goals of an equitable transition.

Central to the new OPP must be outreach and engagement coupled with technical assistance offerings. Many communities do not know how to navigate FERC processes if they are impacted by an infrastructure project. This lack of knowledge and oftentimes financial resources automatically places them at a disadvantage. FERC’s OPP can help address the lack of information access and correct the existing imbalance of power between frontline communities and large corporations.

I was selected to speak on Panel 2 of the one-day commissioner-led workshop, where I offered input on the structure and function of the OPP. Our recommendations focused on ways OPP can improve outreach and engagement, offering technical assistance to communities and companies, creating an intervenor compensation program, and the importance of ombudsperson services for the public. Each of these recommendations flow together creating a system of supports that gives communities a seat at the table.

FERC has extended its deadline for the submission of comments to May 7, 2021, by 5:00 pm EST. Written comments for Docket No. AD21-9-000 on the Office of Public Participation can be submitted here using the Commission’s eFiling system.

Watch the webcast of the workshop on FERC’s webcast platform (best viewed with Microsoft Edge browser).

JOIN THE MOVEMENT Sign up for updates from Vote Solar on solar progress and energy justice across the U.S.