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US Official Emphasizes Enforcement Role in Energy Markets

by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 21, 2007
The chief enforcement officer of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Wednesday expressed confidence that the federal government can adequately monitor the expanding physical and financial energy markets.

At a Platts Energy Podium roundtable with reporters, FERC Office of Enforcement Director Susan Court emphasized the commission's enforcement efforts as members of Congress and state officials increasingly call on federal regulators to explain rising oil, natural gas and electricity prices.

"FERC, without a doubt, has joined the ranks of federal enforcement agencies," Court said. "Its ability to enforce its rules and orders issued to carry out its responsibilities is as great as any federal agency in the federal government."

Court addressed concerns that the commission either does not have enough regulatory and investigative tools to monitor the vast gas and power markets, or is not using them to the extent it should. She insisted that FERC investigators have "adequate tools" in terms of information and authority to monitor markets and enforce laws barring manipulation.

Coming off the market breakdown of the Western energy crisis in 2000-01 and the price spikes after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Congress strengthened FERC's authority in 2005 to aggressively pursue instances of market manipulation and penalize energy companies that ignore federal regulations or try to defraud customers.

FERC has authority under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to impose fines of up to $1 million per day per violation of regulations.

Congress and states have ramped up the pressure on FERC and its chairman, Joseph Kelliher, to keep a close eye on trading in the financial futures markets that impact the physical gas and power markets.

"We have adequate tools to do that," Court said, adding that a nearly doubling of enforcement staff in the past five years is enough to oversee the interrelated physical and future markets.

Kelliher has supported changes in staffing to do just that, she said. "To the extent that we see a need, he's never said no. We have access to sufficient information, but we also have staff that understands the relationship between those markets."

Sponsored by Platts, a division of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Platts Energy Podium provides an ongoing forum for prominent newsmakers and the press to address important energy and environmental issues. Credentialed members of the media may receive complementary registration for Energy Podium events by contacting Nancy Covey at 202-942-8719, A recording of the Susan Court session is available via podcast.

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Senate Committee Proposal Important First Step To Commercialize Cellulosic Ethanol
Washington (SPX) Jun 20, 2007
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today expressed thanks to the Senate Committee on Finance and to Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) for proposing the "Energy Advancement and Investment Act of 2007." Among its many provisions, the legislation contains a first-of-its-kind tax credit for small-scale producers (60 million gallons or less annually) of biofuels from cellulosic biomass.

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