FERC institutes regulatory review per Obama order

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has agreed to implement an executive order by President Obama calling for independent regulatory agencies to engage in a public effort to reassess and streamline their regulations.

Obama issued an order July 11 calling for the action by independent federal regulators, such as FERC, to analyze rules that might be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome. The president, who issued a similar order to executive branch agencies in January, said such rules should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed.

“The commission complied with the spirit of the president’s January order when I directed staff to perform an internal assessment of the effectiveness of our regulations,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said July 11. “And as part of our normal procedure, FERC’s regulatory process is open and public.”

Wellinghoff and Commissioner Philip Moeller testified on the subject July 7 to the House Energy and Oversight Committee. Wellinghoff talked about the commission’s regulatory actions to: encourage development of transmission infrastructure; reduce natural gas industry reporting burdens; improve competition in electricity markets; move from paper to electronic filing formats; explore improving competition in providing electricity grid ancillary services; encourage small hydropower development; and evaluate the effectiveness of the FERC’s integrated licensing process for hydro projects.

Moeller told the committee he had made it a personal priority to increase the effectiveness and transparency of FERC’s Office of Enforcement. He noted the commission enacted objective penalty guidelines based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines model.

Moeller said the commission has worked to promote development of smaller hydropower resources and newer hydrokinetic technologies, including a pilot license process for hydrokinetic projects.

Moeller: To streamline hydro, pass laws over resource agencies

As a native of the Pacific Northwest, Moeller said he is interested in promoting cost-effective and environmentally friendly hydropower. To help accomplish that, he proposed lawmakers modify the Federal Power Act.

“It is a fact that the licensing process of hydropower projects, and the relicensing of existing projects, is an expensive and multi-year process,” the commissioner told the committee. “However, most of the cost and time involved in this process can be traced to the requirements of the federal hydropower licensing law.”

Moeller said existing law emphasizes both extensive environmental reviews of a project’s effects and a role for federal and state resource agencies.

“There are no consequences to these agencies if they miss deadlines that are part of the commission’s licensing process or of the laws and regulations they must comply with before the commission can issue a license, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act,” he said.

“For those members interested in promoting hydropower development, an examination of this and related laws and specifically the roles and responsibilities of resource agencies could help streamline the licensing process and allow greater certainty for those seeking to develop this abundant renewable resource.”

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