Cheryl LaFleur [is] entrusted with vast authority to oversee the electricity, oil and natural gas industries [as Commissioner at] the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a tiny government agency with only 1,500 employees. Its budget is covered not by taxpayers but by the industries it regulates….
In a Feb. 18 letter to six senators and 13 representatives, LaFleur demonstrated beyond any doubt her fealty to electricity companies and disregard for consumers. The 19 legislators expressed alarm over the quadrupling of prices paid just to have power plants available in New England to supply electricity during peak times. The price was $1 billion and change five years ago. Last month’s auction hit $4 billion and would have been much higher but for price caps.
LaFleur, a Harvard educated lawyer, politely thanked the lawmakers for writing her about their concerns. She then told them that nothing could be done….LaFleur [said] that she could do nothing because of the filed rate doctrine, which holds that once rates are set, they cannot be changed until a new rate case. However, she is wrong about the law.
Congress, through the Federal Power Act, authorizes her and her fellow commissioners to block unjust and unreasonable rates….
Not incidentally, she was a senior executive and acting CEO of National Grid, a British-owned electricity and gas utility in the Northeast. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada tried last summer when he was Senate majority leader to block her nomination, saying she would act in the interests of utilities and against customers.
President Barack Obama should fire LaFleur. Allowing her to remain in office would only add to the awful Obama legacy of shielding Big Business from law enforcement….
David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize while at The New York Times, teaches business, tax and property law of the ancient world at the Syracuse University College of Law. He is the best-selling author of “Perfectly Legal,” “Free Lunch” and “The Fine Print” and the editor of the new anthology “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality.”