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Proposed OMOI Restructuring Reflects FERC's 'Heightened Enforcement Role'

April 10, 2006
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FERC's proposed restructuring of the Office of Market Oversight and Investigations (OMOI) into the Office of Enforcement "reflects [the] heightened role of the Commission's enforcement responsibilities as manifested by Congress" in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), according to Susan J. Court, who will head up the new office.

"Yes, to the extent that Congress has given us the tools to be tougher, we will be [tenacious]" in monitoring the energy industry, she said during a press briefing last Wednesday. "I think that...message is one that Congress conveyed in EPAct." In the new law, Congress greatly enhanced FERC's ability to police against market manipulation and expanded the agency's authority to impose civil penalties on gas and electric companies of up to $1 million a day per violation, Court said.

"There's definitely a stronger enforcement presence at the FERC now than there ever has been before."

The proposed reorganization will split the Office of Enforcement into four divisions: Investigations, with Robert Pease as director; Audits, with Bryan Craig as director; Financial Regulation, with Janice Nicholas as director and chief accountant; and Energy Market Oversight, with Stephen Harvey as director. Under the energy market oversight division, Robert Flanders with head up the gas group, and Dean Wright will be in charge of the electric group.

The proposed restructuring "does not in any way diminish the very important role of the office to oversee the markets to inform the Commission's decision- making," Court said. The oversight role "is as important today as it was when the office of OMOI was created" by former FERC Chairman Pat Wood in 2002.

She noted that the market oversight division will function "pretty much the same as it has been," and will keep the investigative side informed about anything that requires further review.

"I think [the restructuring is] a better allocation of the resources...The previous organization was honestly kind of lopsided," Court said. The "inefficient allocation of the resources that we had" tended to result in a "less productive" workforce, she noted.

Court expects the restructuring to become final in the next couple of weeks. She said it has been approved by FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher, and is "under consideration right now" by the employees' union. Court, who was appointed to head the OMOI last November, said she has been working on the restructuring over the past five months.

She said the Office of Enforcement will have 139 employees, and she hopes to increase that to 150 during the current fiscal year. "Even more positions [are] slated for next year."

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