What do the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, rapper Megan Thee Stallion and climate change have in common? They're all tied to a new campaign launched on the House floor Tuesday intended to boost FERC's visibility on Capitol Hill.
The "Hot FERC Summer" campaign, launched by Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., and supported by other Democratic members of Congress is a play on Stallion's 2019 hit "Hot Girl Summer" — a move Casten's office hopes will bring increased attention to FERC at a critical time for climate and clean energy policy.
The commission is awaiting a nominee from the White House to fill Commissioner Neil Chatterjee's soon-to-be-empty seat. In the meantime Casten and his colleagues are introducing a trio of FERC-related bills, including one that could open the door for FERC to implement a carbon price, according to Casten.
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.
Casten will also next week reintroduce the Right to Timely Rehearings at FERC Act, intended to expedite the rehearing process to level the playing field for all stakeholders engaged with FERC. Earlier this year, he and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., also introduced a bill directing FERC to improve regional transmission planning. FERC last week opened up a proceeding to begin examining transmission reform, including how to better allocate costs and plan for higher levels of renewable energy.
To introduce the campaign, Rep. Casten spent five minutes on the House floor Tuesday evoking lyrics from Megan Thee Stallion's 2019 hit "Hot Girl Summer."
"To paraphrase Miss Stallion ... now that FERC has put in all that work, it's time for them to be the MVP," he said. "Now some might say that FERC isn't, dare I say, 'hot enough' to warrant that attention. But for those of us who are serious about fighting the climate crisis, they sure should be."
"Hot girl summer ain't about degrees, but hot FERC summer most definitely is," he added. "The record temperatures from Portland to Death Valley, the wildfires and the coming hurricane season are all the direct result of our failure to decarbonize as quickly as we must."
The campaign, according to Casten, is intended to better engage the environmental movement with the commission, and help them understand how important FERC will be to climate policy, as well as to better engage industry with some of the market benefits of pursuing clean energy policy. He also hopes it will get the attention of folks on Capitol Hill.
"I, personally, am really concerned that we don't yet even know who the White House's nominee is going to be for FERC," he said. "And that the people who are ostensibly big sort of climate advocates are not making noise about this. So, yes, I'm certainly hoping that some of those people, especially on the Senate side, would have some influence over this."