Energy Regulatory Commission, United States Federal
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is an independent regulatory agency within the Department of Energy (DOE) responsible for regulating energy utilities nationwide. As such, it has a significant oversight role in America's critical infrastructure. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, FERC has worked to help ensure protection of information concerning energy utilities.
FERC is responsible for regulating, in interstate commerce, the transmission of oil by pipeline, the transmission and sale of natural gas for resale, and the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity. It also licenses and inspects private, municipal, and state hydroelectric projects, approves site choices, and plans for abandonment, of interstate pipeline facilities; and oversees environmental issues as these relate to natural gas, oil, electricity, and hydroelectric power projects. Additionally, FERC administers the accounting and financial reporting regulations, and the conduct of jurisdictional utility companies.
At the time the Department of Energy Organization Act established DOE on October 1, 1977, the national utilities oversight organization was known as the Federal Power Commission (FPC). The FPC was later disbanded and FERC established in its place. FERC's membership comes from five presidential appointees, no more than three of whom may belong to the same political party. Its members, whose appointments are made with the advice and consent of the Senate, serve terms of five years. Although there is a chairperson designated by the president, all members have equal voting power.
In the atmosphere of heightened security consciousness that emerged after the September, 2001 terrorist attacks, FERC has worked with entities in the private and public sectors to ensure greater protection of interstate utilities. In September 2002, FERC proposed new rules limiting public access to information on power plants, pipelines, and other aspects of critical infrastructure as it relates to energy. Information that had been easily available on its Web site would thenceforth be granted purely on a need-to-know basis.
█ FURTHER READING:
"FERC Streamlining to Reflect Industry." Oil & Gas Journal. 96, no. 26 (June 29, 1998): 33.
Gips, Michael A. "They Secure the Body Electric." Security Management 46, no. 11 (November 2002): 77–81.
Matthews, William. "Energy Agency Says Web Info Poses Threat." Federal Computer Week 16, no. 34 (September 23, 2002): 46.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. < http://www.ferc.fed.us/ > (February 23, 2003).