Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), according to its website, "is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil."[1] FERC has 5 commissioners which are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Also, "the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave FERC additional responsibilities as outlined in FERC’s top priorities and updated Strategic Plan."[2]

FERC's Primary Duties

According to their website[3], FERC's duties and responsibilities under the Natural Gas Act include:

  • Regulates the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce;
  • Reviews certain mergers and acquisitions and corporate transactions by electricity companies;
  • Regulates the transmission and sale of natural gas for resale in interstate commerce;
  • Regulates the transportation of oil by pipeline in interstate commerce;
  • Approves the siting and abandonment of interstate natural gas pipelines and storage facilities;
  • Reviews the siting application for electric transmission projects under limited circumstances;
  • Ensures the safe operation and reliability of proposed and operating LNG terminals;
  • Licenses and inspects private, municipal, and state hydroelectric projects;
  • Protects the reliability of the high voltage interstate transmission system through mandatory reliability standards;
  • Monitors and investigates energy markets;
  • Enforces FERC regulatory requirements through imposition of civil penalties and other means;
  • Oversees environmental matters related to natural gas and hydroelectricity projects and other matters; and
  • Administers accounting and financial reporting regulations and conduct of regulated companies.

On nuclear power

Former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff caused concern among the coal and nuclear industries in April 2009, when he said, "I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism.... We may not need any, ever." He also said, about nuclear power plants, "I don't see anybody building these things ... until costs get to a reasonable level." [4]

In May 2009, Nuclear Energy Institute President Marvin Fertel asked Wellinghoff about his remark, that "you didn't see a need for baseload, either coal or nuclear, if we could just get distributed generation and renewables." Wellinghoff responded that his point was that "renewable energy, energy demand management, new technologies and other strategies could create 'a new paradigm'. ... 'It is conceivable in this scenario that you may not need large central station plants,' he said. 'That's one scenario. That doesn't mean that scenario is in fact going to occur. But it is a scenario that is rational. There may be other scenarios that are rational, as well, including incorporating significant nuclear and coal into our system. Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter what might be a rational or irrational scenario. What matters is what the markets will do.'" [4]

Coal and transmission

Role of FERC

According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) creates barriers for local use of renewable energy, as FERC sees its primary goal as accelerating and enabling the long distance transmission of electricity, while many states and cities see their primary goal as maximizing in-state production of energy and the economic benefits that derive from that. FERC has asserted that it has preemptive powers to impose new, high-voltage transmission lines on states, although this has so far been denied by the courts. FERC's claim came from a section of the 2005 Energy Policy Act that gave FERC the authority to approve transmission lines in Department of Energy designated “National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors” if states did not act on proposals within one year. FERC took this to mean that it could approve any transmission line, even one that a state had rejected. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in February 2009, ruling that FERC had overstepped its authority.

FERC has also encouraged a shift in the locus of transmission planning from local and state, to regional and national bodies, and has prohibited states from setting prices above the utility’s avoided cost – the price the utility says it must pay to get an additional kilowatt-hour of power – generally too low to attract investment in all but the least expensive renewable energy sources.

The Institute for Local Self Reliance also argues the grid system is a black box and developers only learn about potential interconnection costs once they initiate the slow interconnection process and have sunk significant money into site development.[5]


"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is composed of up to five commissioners who are appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners serve five-year terms, and have an equal vote on regulatory matters." [1]

The Obama administration's FERC, as of May 2015, is led by: [6]

Former Commissioners

The following are recent former Commissioners. A full list is available on the agency's website.

Contact details

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20426

Phone / public inquiries: 202-502-6088 or toll-free: 1-866-208-3372
Email: customer AT ferc.gov
Website: http://www.ferc.gov/

Articles and resources

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External resources

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