RI Delegation Urges Biden Administration to Protect Consumers from Unfairly High Heating and Energy Prices This Winter

Providence, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) have joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) in sending a bicameral letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Richard Glick urging the agency to use its authority to protect consumers from unfairly high energy costs.

“We write to express our concern in regard to the effect that anticipated increases in heating and energy costs will have on our constituents this winter,” wrote the lawmakers. “As the entity tasked with the regulatory mission of ensuring consumers can access reliable energy at a reasonable cost, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has a significant role to play in promoting energy justice and protecting United States residents from unfairly high energy costs.  Under its statutory authority, FERC has the power to influence retail rates for natural gas and electricity, including by preventing market manipulation in wholesale natural gas and electricity markets and enforcing gas spot market transparency.  We urge the Commission to use its existing regulatory authority to ensure that households’ energy bills are not driven up by manipulation, obfuscation, or other malfeasance from regulated entities, and to work collaboratively with other agencies to address energy debt.”

“For too long, the federal government has allowed too many utility companies to put profit above the public,” continued the lawmakers.  “We have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to safe living conditions, and we cannot let corporate greed or a quest for profit get in the way of fundamental human rights…With high winter energy costs, the ongoing threat of the pandemic, and racial and economic justice issues surrounding energy debt, we urge FERC to use its existing statutory authority to better protect consumers from energy market manipulation.  FERC should use existing statutory authority to provide more transparency on gas spot markets to protect consumers from companies that use hidden prices to set or manipulate energy costs on a non-competitive basis.”

A number of national and local organizations endorsed the letter, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Water Watch, National Consumer Law Center, and Public Citizen.

Rhode Islanders having a difficult time paying heating bills can apply for the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The American Rescue Plan allotted an additional $4.5 billion for LIHEAP, more than doubling the average annual funding for the program.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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