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by Kleinman Center for Energy Policy
Energy Policy Now

Can the FERC Be Made Accountable to Communities and the Environment?


Congress has directed the nation’s regulator for natural gas and electricity infrastructure to be more responsive to community and environmental concerns. Will FERC’s new Office of Public Participation deliver on the promise of public inclusion?


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission increasingly finds itself at the center of controversy as momentum in the United States builds for a cleaner and more sustainable energy system.

As the regulator of the nation’s natural gas and electricity networks, the FERC’s job includes the review of applications for new gas pipelines and electric transmission, and FERC commissioners spend a great deal of time assessing the arguments of energy industry legal teams in favor of a given project.

Yet, some argue that the FERC has lost sight of what may be its most important role, which is to guard the public interest, including that of communities and landowners who are most directly affected by the development of energy infrastructure. In fact, community and environmental concerns often find it frustratingly complex, and expensive, to navigate the highly technocratic agency, with the result that public voices may not be adequately heard before the agency.

In response, in December Congress mandated that the FERC present a plan to establish an Office of Public Participation, with the goal to assist the public in taking part in complex FERC proceedings and ensuring that community and landowner concerns are taken into full account. Details of the plan are due to lawmakers by the end of June.

In the podcast Shelly Welton, associate professor at the University of South Carolina Law School, discusses the mandate of the Office of Public Participation, and the challenge of designing the office in a way that ensures that public views are not just voiced, but actively taken into FERC’s decision making process. She also explores why the public can find the FERC such a difficult agency to engage.

Shelley Welton is an associate professor of Law at the University of South Carolina Law School. Her work focuses on the impact of climate change on energy and environmental law.

Related Content

Balancing Renewable Energy Goals with Community Interests https://kleinmanenergy.upenn.edu/research/publications/balancing-renewable-energy-goals-with-community-interests/

U.S. Electricity Regulator Takes A Hard Look at Carbon Pricing https://kleinmanenergy.upenn.edu/podcast/u-s-electricity-regulator-takes-a-hard-look-at-carbon-pricing/

What’s the FERC, and How is it Shaping Our Energy Future? https://kleinmanenergy.upenn.edu/podcast/whats-the-ferc-and-how-is-it-shaping-our-energy-future-part-1/


Episode 19

Season 5

by Kleinman Center for Energy Policy