FERC Chairman Curt Hebert, a former chairman of the MississippiPublic Service Commission, assured state regulators last week atNARUC’s winter committee meetings in Washington, D.C., that theCommission will focus intently on clearing the backlog of 2,000cases clogging up the corridors at 888 First Street NE. Heattributed the backlog mainly to the Commission’s attention toCalifornia’s energy crisis.

“Just last week at only the second agenda on my watch theCommission staff prepared over 100 items for the Commission vote, anumber not seen in many years at the FERC,” said Hebert. “We intendto continue that pace while at the same time addressing acompelling backlog of orders that developed previously of some2,000 cases.

“Some people don’t understand that while we are focusing greatattention and giving great resources to the California crisis —and let me make it clear it is something we are looking over in theentire Northwest and West — we have spent less time with othermatters. I know there are 50 states in America, and we plan to workwith each and every one of them. By focusing our attentions onCalifornia we have had difficulty trying to move forward and getthings done in other areas, hence the 2,000 backlog.”

Hebert said he assigned six lawyers at FERC to be “terminators”and deal with the backlog. “It always aggravated me that the FERCstood in my way [when I was a state regulatory] and would not letme do what was in the best interests of the good people of thestate of Mississippi… I think you deserve your day in court and Ithink you deserve your day at the FERC.. We’re really going to tryand push politics aside and give you a decision. We’re committed toensuring that this backlog of cases will be quickly resolved.”

Hebert also stressed the need for cooperation between state andfederal regulators in this time of national energy crisis. “We sinkor swim together,” he said.

“It’s no small matter that it’s anticipated that consumers willpay 45% more per Mcf this winter and that total winter heatingbills will be about 75% higher than last winter. Already we’ve seenthe impact of these price increases in our economy. Last month therecord 17.4% increase in the price of natural gas reflected largelyin the 0.6% increase in the January consumer price index, thelargest price increase in 10 months.”

Hebert said his view on the current gas market situation is thatit is beginning to “correct itself in a market appropriate manner.”

Although recent events in California seem to have “shaken thefaith of some and the commitment of some to competitive markets,”Hebert stands steady in his devotion to competitive markets.

“You have signed up for the toughest contract of your life,” hetold regulators. “Being a federal and state regulator 20 years agowas very different. It’s not going to be easy. I commit to you notto make political decisions. I commit to you to help keep thelights on. I just ask you to commit to me as well the same thing.If we do this together, communicate and share ideas we can makethis work.”

Rocco Canonica

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