Sean Casten, a former energy executive, has previously described FERC as potentially the "single most impactful agency in the government, as far as dealing with the climate crisis." He and some of his colleagues are hoping to raise the profile of the agency, particularly as stakeholders wait for the White House to bring forward a candidate that would bring the commission to a Democratic majority for the first time in years.
Though several names have been floated, the White House has yet to put forward a candidate. That person would need to get through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and be confirmed by the full Senate.
"We have a narrow window now to really be transformative. And if we are going to prioritize climate, you better prioritize that agency," said Casten in an interview.
Casten, along with Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Mike Levin, D-Calif., and Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., on Tuesday re-introduced the Energy PRICE Act, a policy that would clarify FERC's authority to consider greenhouse gas emissions in ratemaking.
The legislation effectively points out that under the Federal Power Act, the commission has the authority to include greenhouse gas emissions and other external factors, when considering what rates are just and reasonable. With that clarity from Congress, FERC could conclude that under its existing statutory authority, it could unilaterally implement a carbon price in U.S. wholesale power markets, something that has been otherwise debated by legal experts.
"A very compelling case can be made" that FERC's affirmative obligation to ensure wholesale market rates are just and reasonable includes ensuring that greenhouse gas emissions are factored in appropriately, Casten said.
"This [bill] doesn't quite go all the way down to that point, but it certainly starts the process," he added.