FERC’s enforcement activity in the energy sector increased in fiscal year 2021 and included investigations into possible market manipulation during Winter Storm Uri.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

“When I became chairman of the Commission last January, one of my top priorities was to ensure vigorous oversight and enforcement of the Commission-regulated markets,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Chairman Richard Glick. “I cannot stress this enough. We must deter market manipulation and protect consumers through vigorous enforcement of Commission and market rules.”

The regulator’s Division of Analytics and Surveillance (DAS) identified and looked into instances of potential misconduct in wholesale natural gas and electricity market activity during February’s winter storm. The aim was to see if any participants engaged in market manipulation or other violations when ununaully frigid temperatures upended energy markets, sending electric power and natural gas prices skyrocketing. 

As a result of the review, DAS referred two matters to the Division of Investigation (DOI), FERC said.

During the fiscal year, the DOI opened a total of 12 investigations, bringing four pending investigations to closure. Of the $6.4 million negotiated in the eight settlements during the period, $4.6 million involved civil penalties and $1.8 million involved disgorgement, FERC said. In the previous year, three agreements were reached totaling $550,000.

FERC’s Division of Audits and Accounting completed 12 audits of public utility, natural gas and oil companies in the latest period. The audits resulted in 64 findings of noncompliance and 250 recommendations for corrective action. 

DAS also reviewed more than 2.6 million market-based rate transactions to detect potential instances of the exercise of market power. In addition, DAS provided analytical support on 40 investigations with DOI and 15 other matters involving inquiries or litigation, FERC said.