Addressing Environmental Justice: FERC Holds Virtual Listening Sessions and Accepts Public Comments on Development of the Office of Public Participation

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On March 5, 2021, FERC issued a Notice of Virtual Listening Sessions and Public Comment Period soliciting input on how it should establish and operate its Office of Public Participation (OPP) pursuant to section 319 of the Federal Power Act (FPA).  Commission staff, led by Commissioner Clements, held the first public listening session on March 17, and additional listening sessions and a Technical Workshop are scheduled for the coming weeks.

Section 319 was added to the FPA in 1978 and directs the Commission to establish the OPP to “coordinate assistance to the public with respect to authorities exercised by the Commission,” including landowners and communities who may be affected by infrastructure development, Native American Tribes and Environmental Justice communities, and other interested parties seeking to intervene in Commission proceedings.  However, the Commission has not yet followed through on its statutory mandate.  On February 22, 2021, the Commission issued a Notice establishing an April 16, 2021 workshop, to be led by Commissioner Clements, to provide interested parties an opportunity to provide input to the Commission on the creation of the OPP.

The March 5 Notice established four public listening sessions during which Commission staff will hear directly from several stakeholder groups.  The March 17 session was for landowners and affected communities, a March 22 session is for Environmental Justice Communities and Tribal Interests, a March 24 session is for Tribal Governments, and a March 25 session is for Energy Consumers and Consumer Advocates.  Following the March 17 session, Commissioner Clements spoke at the Commission’s March 18 Open Meeting and shared that, based on feedback already received related to accessibility, the Commission would add a fifth listening session on April 19 during evening hours for all interested parties who are not able to attend a daytime session.  She also provided that many stakeholders requested an additional listening session conducted in Spanish, and stated that the Commission was working to make that accommodation.

In addition to the public listening sessions, the Commission is accepting written comments on how it should establish and operate the OPP.  Those comments must be submitted on or before April 23, 2021.

Additional information on the OPP, the virtual listening sessions, and the April 16 workshop is available here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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