Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Electricity Consumer Advocates Seek Supreme Court Review of FERC Market Rate Orders

Several years ago, after manipulation of market-based rates for wholesale electricity was exposed, FERC took action to ban certain manipulative practices used by Enron and others to create artificial scarcity and drive prices up. FERC commenced a proceeding under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act, declaring all market rate tariffs to be unjust and unreasonable, and then proposed to "fix" them by adding certain conditions intended to discourage price manipulation.

A number of consumer advocates intervened in the case, contending that FERC's "fixes" were not sufficient to bring the tariffs into compliance with longstanding Federal Power Act requirements. They contend that the law requires all rates to be filed publicly in advance, before they take effect, and that FERC lacks authority to dispense with the statutory filing requirement by allowing sellers to make secret rate changes and to disclose actual rates only after they have been implemented and charged. Also, they argue that FERC has no objective yardstick by which to measure whether a market rate is just and reasonable. Also, see Consumer Groups Question FERC Market Rates, and Consumer Challenge to FERC "Market-Based Rate" System Proceeds. See also, May the FERC Rely on Markets to Set Electric Rates?.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed FERC's orders. See FERC Escapes Court Review of its Legal Authority for its Electricity Market Rate Regime. The advocates moved for rehearing. See Consumer Advocates Seek Rehearing of D.C. Circuit Court Decision Allowing FERC to Avoid Consideration of Statutory Filing Requirements. The motion for rehearing was denied.

In late November 2007 the consumer advocates, including PULP, filed a petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. In October 2007 the Supreme Court granted review in another case involving remedies for unjust and unreasonable market rates. See U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Electricity Market Rate Refund Case.

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