Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Has Expedited Case Processing; Additional Improvements Needed

RCED-83-51: Published: Jun 10, 1983. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on the status of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) current caseload and the improvements it has made in its caseload management in response to a prior GAO report.

GAO found that FERC has implemented most of the recommendations which GAO made in regard to problems in FERC technical and environmental reviews, hearings procedures, post-hearing legal reviews, and managerial problems. A major time-consuming factor was found to be the large number of incomplete applications received, which necessitated an inordinate amount of staff follow-up time. The report also noted that many of the lengthiest cases could be expedited if FERC administrative law judges (ALJ) were stricter about granting extensions. The prior report also concluded that FERC could expedite case processing by: (1) delegating the more routine cases to staff for decision; (2) ensuring that its management information system contains sufficient data; and (3) establishing rules on issues common to many cases. The improvements already made by FERC have resulted in faster processing of several major types of cases, which has helped reduce the backlog from about 3,600 cases in fiscal year (FY) 1978 to about 2,000 cases in FY 1982 despite an increase in FERC responsibilities and caseload under the National Energy Act. However, GAO noted that further FERC actions are possible and would yield benefits.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO initially made this recommendation in EMD-80-54, July 15, 1980, and repeated it in this follow-up report. Congress has not taken any action on this recommendation. Therefore, GAO believes that this should not be classified as an open recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should assign the responsibility for periodically evaluating ALJ performance to another organization, such as the Office of Personnel Management or the Administrative Conference of the United States.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO initially made this recommendation in EMD-80-54, July 15, 1980, and repeated it in this follow-up report. Congress has not taken any action on this recommendation. Therefore, GAO believes that this should not be classified as an open recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should require regulatory agencies, such as FERC, to develop ALJ performance standards.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FERC, should finalize its generic rulemaking to prevent unnecessary relitigation of common, or generic, issues.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FERC, should complete ongoing actions to ensure that complete processing milestone dates are entered into the Management Information System.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FERC, should improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the FERC review of cases pending final action or reconsiderations by: limiting and expediting the Office of Opinions and Reviews (OOR) review process and revising OOR review policy to reflect those opinions that best accomplish this objective; summarily affirming all ALJ initial decisions not meeting the criteria it establishes under this review policy; placing a higher priority on FERC action in cases pending rehearing by initially limiting extensions of time for decisions on rehearing requests to a firm, but reasonable, time period (90 days) and, thereafter, allowing further extensions only upon finding certain exceptional case characteristics that it should define in its rules of practice and procedure.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FERC, should obtain the timely involvement of the Director, Office of Electric Power Regulation, to expedite those cases where interagency comments are required on the environmental impact of new hydroelectric projects.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FERC, should reject incomplete natural gas applications to discourage unnecessary applicant delays in resolving deficiencies, when such action is in the public interest.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FERC, should use currently available monetary penalties to discourage unnecessary delay by applicants when prescribed deadlines have not been met and such action is in the public interest.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

 

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