FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher on Tuesday named Susan J. Court, a 23-year veteran of the agency, to be the new director of the Office of Market Oversight and Investigations (OMOI), replacing William Hederman who headed up the office under the administration of former Chairman Pat Wood.

Court’s appointment went into effect immediately, said FERC spokesman Bryan Lee. Hederman, the first and only director of OMOI, still is at FERC in the role of executive assistant to Court. He told NGI in late September that he planned to depart FERC and return to the private sector, and that he had informed Kelliher and others at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of his plans (see Daily GPI, Sept. 23).

“As we enter the winter heating season with record high natural gas prices, Susan will be at the front lines of the Commission’s efforts to make certain market manipulation does not impose any further costs on consumers,” Kelliher said in a prepared statement.

The OMOI division, which was established in 2002, has grown to 130 employees, including a multi-disciplinary team of economists, auditors, lawyers and financial analysts. The unit conducts extensive investigations of market activity and prepares regular reports for FERC and Congress. The Commission’s enforcement responsibilities were broadened by Energy Policy Act of 2005 that was enacted into law in August. The new law gives the agency enhanced authority to police against market manipulation and expands FERC’s authority to impose civil penalties of up to $1 million a day per violation.

“Congress has given the Commission significant new enforcement authority, and it will require additional resources to discharge this duty. Susan has strong management experience, and has strengthened every office she has led here at the Commission,” Kelliher said.

The appointment of Court appeared to put to rest rumors that OMOI might be merged back into the regular Commission enforcement staff.

Court is a seasoned and respected Commission staffer. She was FERC’s chief of staff under Wood, and also has served past Commissions as associate general counsel for oil and gas, associate general counsel for general and administrative law and deputy solicitor. In addition, she was senior legal advisor to former Commissioner Anthony G. Sousa and served as his executive assistant during his tenure as FERC chairman.

Court was at the forefront of the Commission’s natural gas pipeline open-access program, overseeing the implementation of the agency’s original open-access rulemaking, Order 436. She also orchestrated the drafting of Order 636, and then led the team that defended Order 636 in the federal courts.

A native of Kentucky, Court received her B.A. from Thomas More College in Fort Mitchell, KY, and a Master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. She earned her law degree at Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

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