Nothing happens quickly at the Federal Energy Regulatory
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
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. …