The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Thursday reported that it approved six settlement agreements in fiscal year (FY) 2010 for a total of $31.4 million in civil penalties and disgorgement of $281,038 plus interest.

Of the six settlements, three involved violations of FERC's natural gas pipeline transportation access requirements, two involved violations of electric reliability standards, and one involved a violation of the open-access electric transmission tariff, according to the Commission's "2010 Report on Enforcement," which was discussed at the agency's regular monthly meeting.

The FY 2010 settlements were significantly below the number of settlements that the Commission approved in FY 2009 (22) for a total of $38.3 million in civil penalties.

Enforcement reported that it received 93 self-reports of violations in FY 2010 and closed 54 of them after an initial review and without opening an investigation. Staff said its initial review still was pending for 39 of the self-reports, none of which have been converted into an investigation.

"The number of self-reported tariff or open-access tariff [electricity] violations has continued its upward trend that began in FY 2009 and currently accounts for the largest category of self-reports. [But] open-access violations have decreased as natural gas companies have increased compliance efforts to prevent capacity release violations," the enforcement report said.

Enforcement staff reported it opened 15 investigations this year into violations that were not self reported, including those related to tariffs, market manipulation, market-based rates and capacity release requirements. It closed only 16 investigations this year compared to 36 in FY 2009. Of the 16 investigations, two were closed with no finding of a violation; in eight cases a violation was found but the investigation was closed with no sanctions; and six were concluded with a settlement.

FERC enforcement staff also completed 52 audits of public utilities and natural gas pipeline and storage companies in FY 2010, which generated 210 recommendations for corrective actions and resulted in $4.1 million in monetary recoveries from accounting and billing adjustments.

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