Energy Regulation:

Enforcement of Requirements Imposed on Hydropower Projects Needs Strengthening

RCED-88-60: Published: Mar 4, 1988. Publicly Released: Apr 26, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO investigated the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) monitoring and enforcement of federal requirements imposed on hydropower projects, focusing on the adequacy of its: (1) monitoring of various license or exemption conditions to ensure prompt compliance; (2) investigations of instances of potential noncompliance; and (3) violation resolution actions.

GAO found that, although the FERC Office of Hydropower Licensing generally conducted physical inspections of projects in accordance with its established procedures and monitored correction of any identified problems, FERC: (1) lacked internal controls to ensure that engineers took timely or consistent follow-up action when project operators untimely submitted required items; (2) could not rely on its Hydropower License Compliance Tracking System (HLCTS), which contained inaccurate data, to monitor compliance with license and exemption requirements; (3) could not fairly and equitably impose civil penalties on project operators if it could not take timely and consistent follow-up action on all overdue items; (4) caused delays in noncompliance investigation cases through inadequate oversight and poor communication and coordination between national and regional offices; and (5) regional offices lacked complete information regarding projects' compliance histories.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that complete compliance histories are compiled for use in considering relicensing applications and the imposition of penalties, the Chairman, FERC, should establish procedures to ensure that files from all offices involved are examined in compiling compliance information on past cases.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FERC has made the task force, which was established in April 1987, to coordinate all investigative and enforcement matters, responsible for developing these compliance histories. This should ensure that all applicable information is compiled because the task force has a representative from each of the offices involved in investigating compliance matters.

    Recommendation: To make HLCTS a more effective tracking and oversight tool, the Chairman, FERC, should instruct the Director, Office of Hydropower Licensing, to require supervisory review and approval of data entries submitted by the responsible regional staff. The supervisory reviews should ensure that all needed entries are made and that all entries are supported by adequate documentation.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FERC has tightened the internal controls over HLCTS by requiring supervisory review and approval of data entries. In addition, FERC has designated a coordinator with responsibility for making the actual entries to ensure accuracy of the data and the usefulness of the system as an oversight mechanism.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the FERC internal controls over follow-up of overdue items are adequate and to provide for the fair and consistent implementation of the new FERC enforcement penalty program, the Chairman, FERC, should instruct the Director, Office of Hydropower Licensing, to prescribe uniform follow-up actions to be taken when required items are overdue so that similar problems result in similar corrective action.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FERC has indicated that centralizing follow-up responsibilities in one division provides consistency in the types of follow-up actions taken. In addition, the draft procedures manual provides standardized procedures specifying the form of the follow-up action to be taken when items are overdue.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the FERC internal controls over follow-up of overdue items are adequate and to provide for the fair and consistent implementation of the new FERC enforcement penalty program, the Chairman, FERC, should instruct the Director, Office of Hydropower Licensing, to increase managerial oversight to ensure that staff comply with existing guidelines regarding the timeliness of follow-up actions.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Because of the new organizational structure, FERC has developed a draft procedures manual which provides standardized procedures specifying the timing of the follow-up action to be taken when items are overdue.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the FERC internal controls over follow-up of overdue items are adequate and to provide for the fair and consistent implementation of the new FERC enforcement penalty program, the Chairman, FERC, should instruct the Director, Office of Hydropower Licensing, to increase managerial oversight to ensure that regional office staff are promptly notified about headquarters' actions involving approval of time extensions and deficiencies found in submitted items.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 1988, FERC reorganized and placed responsibility for all compliance activities in a single division and, thus eliminated many of the problems that resulted from the inadequate communications when responsibilities were split between the headquarters and field offices.

    Recommendation: To ensure that complete compliance histories are compiled for use in considering relicensing applications and the imposition of penalties, the Chairman, FERC, should establish procedures to ensure that complete documentation of headquarters' actions on current and future cases is included in the individual project compliance history files which the regional offices maintain.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since responsibility for tracking and monitoring compliance has now been centralized in a headquarters division, it is no longer necessary that this documentation be forwarded to the regional offices.

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