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Market monitoring, inspections to continue if government shuts down: US FERC

By: Bobby McMahon |

In the event of a US government shutdown October 1, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Friday it could furlough roughly 95% of its staff and contractors, while maintaining efforts to ensure grid reliability and prevent market manipulation.

“If FERC has a lapse in appropriations, FERC will do an orderly shutdown of non-excepted activities,” the commission said in a memo. The memo stated that commission activities deemed essential will require the five commissioners, 48 employees and 19 contractors out of the commission’s full staff of 1,460 people.

President Barack Obama, as well as House and Senate lawmakers, continued Friday to wrangle over the contents of a budget deal that would fund the government beyond the end of September, with reports saying that it remained unclear whether a deal to avert the shutdown would be struck in time.

While saying that FERC would upon a “hiatus in appropriations … immediately utilize and exhaust all carryover funds to support operations for a limited term,” the memo described activities that would continue should those carryover funds run out. Those include safety inspections at hydropower projects and liquefied natural gas terminals — both under construction and fully operational — as well as efforts to monitor grid reliability and threats to infrastructure.

The monitoring of energy markets will also continue during a shutdown, the memo said, noting that “actions in these markets sometimes require the commission to act urgently to protect the property of market participants.”

“These activities entail direct programs which provide for the protection of life and property as well as the related mission support (i.e., legal, financial, human resources, etc.) required to successfully execute the objectives of these programs,” the memo said.

The memo said, however, that the commission “will cease the acceptance of filings from the public and postpone all deadlines and due dates for all pending matters not related to excepted activities.” In recent days, natural gas industry officials expressed concern over the possibility of a government shutdown slowing action on pipeline approvals and other key actions.

Elsewhere on Friday, FERC said it would, in the event of a shutdown, reschedule an October 2 conference on how to pursue changes to hydropower permitting programs under the recently approved Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013. In that case, the conference would be moved to October 22.