Nothing happens quickly at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Projects can take years to come to a head, like the landmark Williams Pipe Line Co. oil pipeline case that spent a decade or more on the books at FERC before being resolved by settlement.
There are movements to speed things up, though.
Chairman Martin Allday of Midland, Texas, who took office late last year, has said on numerous occasions that one of his primary goals is to streamline procedures at the agency.
An oversight hearing planned by the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee may help facilitate Allday's goal.
U.S. Rep. Mike Synar, D-Okla., who chairs the subcommittee, told the Natural Gas Roundtable two weeks ago that a hearing may take place late this year or early next. FERC procedures and operations will be the primary focus of the hearing, he said, rather than specific cases such as the Iroquois pipeline from Canada to New York, which was probed by the Senate Energy Committee in early May.
"We want to see what can be done to improve the opeations of FERC," Synar said. "We get complaints constantly."
Public comment along with industry and agency input will be sought for the hearing.
A Synar subcommittee aide said the hearing will concentrate on the resources of the agency plus procedures, and also look at the agency's policy and authorizations.
FERC has some 1,436 permanent employees. In fiscal 1989, the agency's appropriated budget totalled $108.8 million. During the year, the agency collected some $125 million in charges and fees.
Aside from natural gas matters, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission oversees oil pipelines, gas pipelines, hydroelectric projects and electric utilities. The agency is empowered by the Natural Gas Act and Natural Gas Policy Act, among other applicable laws.
Synar's aide said Synar, and others, also are concerned about the number of FERC decisions that have been overturned by the courts in recent months, especially natural gas cases such as Order 451 - the "old gas" decision.
The end goal of the subcommittee, Synar's aide said, is to fix FERC, whether by recommended legislation or an official report outlining remedial steps to be taken by the agency. This will not be a speedy process, either, but she said the subcommittee has been successful in implementing recommended changes in the past.
A report has not yet been issued by the Senate Energy Committee on its hearing on the Iroquois. Committee staff members have said, however, that allegations of ex parte meetings between Iroquois project sponsors and FERC staff will not be addressed.
An internal investigation continues at the agency into the alleged improper meetings. …