MPACT Act Would Close Loophole, Allow FERC to Require Natural Gas Pipelines to Pay Rebates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to introduce legislation to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) authority to order interstate natural gas pipelines to pay refunds for overcharging consumers.

The Making Pipelines Accountable to Consumers and Taxpayers (MPACT) Act (S.4171) would close a loophole that limits the ability of FERC to benefit consumers after it determines an interstate natural gas pipeline is overcharging and exceeding established return on equity standards.  Closing the loophole would hold natural gas pipelines to the same standard applied to electricity providers that are required to provide rebates for overcharges.

“This legislation is a matter of basic fairness to consumers in Mississippi and elsewhere, whether they use natural gas to cook meals or heat a poultry house.  Right now, they have no recourse or chance for a refund when an interstate natural gas pipeline makes millions of dollars in overcharges,” said Hyde-Smith, who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  “We need this legislation to close this loophole and ensure natural gas pipeline regulations are transparent for the American people.”

“We must close a legal loophole that natural gas companies have used routinely and reprehensibly to take advantage of consumers.  The companies overcharge consumers who are unable to receive full reimbursements under current law.  This is a matter of simple fairness: if consumers are overcharged for a utility, they should be made whole.  With the Making Pipelines Accountable to Consumers and Taxpayers Act, we can hold natural gas pipeline operators accountable for stealing money out of consumers’ pockets and ensure that those consumers are paying only the correct, reasonable rate,” said Blumenthal.

Under the Natural Gas Act, FERC can order natural gas pipeline companies to lower their rates, but cannot order the pipeline to refund any overcharges to its customers.  The MPACT Act would remedy this problem by holding natural gas pipeline operators accountable to ratepayers and increase transparency around FERC regulation of natural gas pipelines.

Hyde-Smith recently asked three FERC commissioner nominees about their level of support for amending the Natural Gas Act to give the FERC refund authority in cases where natural gas transmission pipelines charge unfair rates to their customers.

Some of the organizations endorsing the MPACT Act include the American Public Gas Association (APGA), Industrial Energy Consumers of America, National Gas Supply Association, American Forest and Paper Association, American Public Power Association, Cargill, Inc., Essential Minerals Association, and Process Gas Consumers Group.

“I commend Senator Hyde-Smith for introducing the MPACT Act.  This bill will help ensure fair energy rates for natural gas consumers in Mississippi and across the country.  Natural gas consumers in the state, including the customers we serve at Corinth Gas and Water, deserve the same protections from excessive interstate gas transmission rates that electric consumers already enjoy.  Congress should quickly pass Senator Hyde-Smith’s MPACT Act to protect natural gas consumers across America,” Chris Latch of Corinth, chairman of the APGA Board of Directors.

“The American Public Gas Association commends Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Senator Richard Blumenthal for their effort to reintroduce the Making Pipelines Accountable to Consumers and Taxpayers Act (MPACT).  If enacted, this bill will help keep energy rates affordable for Americans using natural gas in their homes and businesses.  The millions of natural gas consumers across the country deserve the same protections afforded to electric consumers when interstate transmission entities charge excessive rates.  This legislation is critical to continue the efforts of public gas utilities to deliver affordable, reliable, and efficient energy to their customers in 38 states.  APGA urges Congress to swiftly pass Senator Hyde-Smith’s and Senator Blumenthal’s MPACT Act,” said Dave Schryver, APGA President & CEO.