Although the federal government’s slow response to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina will be forever seared into the memory of the nation, there were a few things that went right — including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s quick action to help rebuild the damaged energy infrastructure along the Gulf region, according to a comprehensive review of the government’s performance during the disaster last August.
“In [an] effort to get needed resources in the region freed up for use by the victims and responders there, as well by citizens throughout the nation, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission took immediate steps to reconstruct the natural gas infrastructure of the region, and reduce the disruption in the natural gas supply,” said the report, which examined what went wrong and what went right in the wake of the Category 3 hurricane (landfall) that killed 1,330 people and caused an estimated $96 billion in damage.
“Because the Commission approved temporary [blanket-certificate] waivers and expanded eligibility standards they were able to help natural gas companies restore service and deliver additional gas to market,” said the 228-page document, which was released Thursday.
The report failed to recognize a number of other gas-related actions taken by FERC in the wake of Katrina — the agency granted some affected companies the authority to waive penalties, fees or other charges incurred by their customers as a direct result of the emergency; permitted pipelines to reroute natural gas that was shut in due to the hurricane; extended filing deadlines at the agency for certain companies affected by Katrina; reported weekly on the status of natural gas and electric transmission facilities in the devastated areas; and closely monitored gas prices in the region.
The Commission also took a number of actions to aid affected electric transmission systems — such as relaxing certain requirements so that transmission providers could take whatever steps that were necessary to keep their systems operating; and waived certain standards of conduct requirements (primarily regarding record keeping) for electric transmission providers.
The report credited the Department of Energy (DOE) for helping to get electricity restored to the pumping stations in Mississippi and Louisiana for the Colonial and Plantation Pipelines, major suppliers of fuel for the eastern United States. The department persuaded both Entergy Corp. and Mississippi Power to place the electricity restoration of the pumping stations high on their priority lists, it said.
The report also noted that DOE helped to facilitate the restoration of operations at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which offloads ultra-large tankers and pumps about 1 million barrels of oil a day.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) coordinated the transport and delivery of large emergency generators to petroleum and natural gas industry sites that lacked power following the hurricanes, according to the report.
The review was headed up by Frances Frago Townsend, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. A number of White House staff members involved in homeland security also participated in the review, as well as staff members from other parts of the federal government — DOT, Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, United States Army, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Public Health Service.
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