Electricity Regulation:

Factors Affecting the Processing of Electric Power Applications

RCED-93-168: Published: Jul 23, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) application processing for the approval of proposed wholesale electricity transactions, focusing on: (1) factors that affect application processing times; (2) the impact of new legislation on the FERC workload; and (3) potential procedural changes to enhance application processing.

GAO found that: (1) processing times for electric power applications are determined by the application's volume and characteristics; (2) of the 4,475 applications FERC processed between 1990 and 1992, FERC required an average of 68 days to process routine applications, 169 days to process nonroutine applications requiring reviews, and nearly 2 years to process and resolve applications that needed trial-type hearings; (3) new legislation and industry changes will likely increase the number of applications requesting electricity transmission services and wholesale electricity sellers needing FERC transaction approval; (4) FERC actions to improve its application processing time include expanding FERC staff decision authority, revising procedures to expedite voluntary settlements, and adopting procedures to conduct settlement negotiations and expedite litigated applications; and (5) FERC could increase its application processing efficacy by revising its tracking of applications in its management information system, improving the accuracy of the information on applications, increasing the use of voluntary settlement procedures, and developing a policy to encourage alternatives to lengthy trial-type hearings.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FERC sent a letter to GAO dated June 21, 1995, to update the status of this open recommendation. According to this letter, FERC has designed a replacement for the computer software that was the focus of this recommendation. FERC will incorporate this recommendation in this revised software. FERC will implement the replacement software following the completion of other higher-priority efforts including moving the agency into new office space and converting its mainframe computer system to a local area network.

    Recommendation: To further improve FERC processing of electric power applications, the Chair, FERC, should upgrade the FERC management information system to retain data: (1) reflecting starting and completion dates of when applications moved through the stages of the application review process; and (2) indicating the number of incomplete applications and the length of time needed for applicants to supply missing information.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FERC sent a letter to GAO on June 21, 1995, to update the status of this open recommendation. According to this letter, FERC's Office of Electric Power has completed two efforts to reduce the number of deficient filings. First, FERC published a guide for its customers that discusses common filing problems and how customers can avoid these problems. Second, FERC developed a deficiency tracking system that categorizes and tracks the most common filing deficiencies and allows FERC to update their filing guide as appropriate.

    Recommendation: To further improve FERC processing of electric power applications, the Chair, FERC, should systematically gather data on incomplete applications, through deficiency letters and telephone calls regarding filing requirements, and periodically assess this information to determine if revisions to FERC filing requirements, policy statements, or other strategies could be used to eliminate or reduce the number of recurring problems.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FERC sent a letter to GAO on June 21, 1995, to update the status of this open recommendation. According to this letter, FERC issued a final rule on April 12, 1995 to implement the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act and other forms of consensual resolution of FERC proceedings.

    Recommendation: To further improve FERC processing of electric power applications, the Chair, FERC, should expedite the adoption of a policy, as required by the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act, allowing for the use of additional alternative settlement procedures.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

 

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