Senator Uses FERC Confirmation Hearing to Gauge Support for Giving Agency Power to Force Refunds for Natural Gas Users

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VIDEO:  Senator Hyde-Smith Questions Nominees on Protecting FERC Mission, Helping Natural Gas Consumers.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today explored options for amending Natural Gas Act in order to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) refund authority in cases where natural gas transmission pipelines charge unfair rates to their customers.

Hyde-Smith broached the issue during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee confirmation hearing for three FERC nominees.   An independent agency within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), FERC regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity as well as natural gas and hydropower projects.

“I appreciate the willingness of these nominees, if confirmed, to work with me and my office to find a way to lessen the impact that these billions in overcharges have on my constituents in Mississippi and across the country,” Hyde-Smith said following the hearing.

Under the Federal Power Act, FERC has refund authority to benefit users who are charged unfair rates by electric utilities.  Section 5 of the Natural Gas Act, however, does not give the agency authority to act in cases where consumers are overcharged by interstate natural gas transmission pipeline entities.  

“So how do you view these overcharges affecting natural gas consumers like my constituents who rely on natural gas to cook and heat their homes, to heat their poultry houses, everything Mississippians do?” Hyde-Smith asked before receiving commitments of cooperation from all three nominees.

At the hearing, Hyde-Smith also tested the willingness of each nominee to challenge other federal agencies that propose far-reaching policies that will affect its mission to ensure reliable and affordable energy to Americans.

“We know the importance of FERC’s role when it comes to ensuring reliable and reasonable rates for the electric grid.  Its very mission statement notes the responsibility to ensure ‘reliable, safe, secure, and economically efficient energy services at a reasonable cost.’  Nowhere does it mention being an environmental policymaking body,” Hyde-Smith said.  “We have seen in years past and even recently how other agencies have proposed what I consider to be major over-reaching policies, without consulting FERC, that would dramatically impact the reliability of the grid.”

Hyde-Smith has been critical of proposed DOE energy-efficiency standards for electric distribution transformers and cosponsored legislation to replace the DOE standards which are already affecting U.S. transformer manufacturing, exacerbating supply chain shortages, and having a harmful impact on Mississippi electricity suppliers.