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Blumenthal & Hyde-Smith Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Natural Gas Companies Accountable for Overcharges & Refund Consumers

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) introduced legislation to correct unfair and costly rates set by natural gas pipeline companies. The Making Pipelines Accountable to Consumers and Taxpayers (MPACT) Act closes a loophole that has allowed natural gas pipeline companies to consistently overcharge consumers. The legislation provides for millions of dollars in refunds to consumers and would also help reduce future excessive energy rates.

“We must close a legal loophole that natural gas pipeline companies have used routinely and reprehensibly to exploit consumers. The companies overcharge consumers who are unable to receive full reimbursements under current law. This is a matter of simple fairness: if consumers are overcharged for a utility, they should be made whole. With the Making Pipelines Accountable to Consumers and Taxpayers Act, we can hold natural gas pipeline operators accountable for stealing money out of consumers’ pockets and ensure that those consumers are paying only the correct, reasonable rate,” said Blumenthal.

“This legislation is a matter of basic fairness to consumers in Mississippi and elsewhere, whether they use natural gas to cook meals or heat a poultry house.  Right now they have no recourse or chance for a refund when an interstate natural gas pipeline makes millions of dollars in overcharges,” Hyde-Smith said.  “We need this legislation to close this loophole and ensure natural gas pipeline regulations are transparent for the American people.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates rates charged by natural gas pipeline companies, but they lack the authority under the Natural Gas Act (NGA) to require interstate natural gas pipelines to pay refunds if consumers are overcharged. While FERC can order natural gas pipeline companies to lower their rates, it is unable to order the pipeline to refund any overcharges to its customers under current law. The MPACT Act would remedy this problem by holding natural gas pipeline operators accountable to their ratepayers and increase transparency around FERC’s regulation of natural gas pipelines.

The MPACT Act is endorsed by a number of organizations, including the National Gas Supply Association (NGSA), American Public Gas Association (APGA), Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA), American Public Power Association (APPA), Cargill, Inc., Connecticut Natural Gas (CNG), Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO), Essential Minerals Association (EMA), Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), Process Gas Consumers Group (PGC), Maine Natural Gas (MNG), and New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG).

“We applaud Senator Blumenthal for introducing this important legislation, which will provide natural gas customers with timely and meaningful relief from excessive pipeline earnings,” said Dena Wiggins, President and CEO of NGSA.

"The American Public Gas Association (APGA) commends Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith for their effort to reintroduce the Making Pipelines Accountable to Consumers and Taxpayers Act (MPACT). If enacted, this bill will help keep rates affordable for Americans using energy in their homes and businesses. The millions of gas consumers across the country deserve the same protections afforded to electric consumers when interstate transmission entities charge excessive rates. This legislation is critical to continue the efforts of public gas utilities to deliver affordable, reliable, and efficient energy to their customers in 38 states. APGA urges Congress to swiftly pass the MPACT Act,” said Dave Schryver, President and CEO of APGA.

“We strongly support this legislation,” said Paul Cicio, President and CEO of IECA. “Natural gas consumers are subjected to billions of dollars in overcharges from interstate pipelines each year. The MPACT legislation protects consumers from these unjust costs.”

Full text of the bill can be found here.