It’s a tough time to be an energy regulator in Washington.
The value of all federal regulation is being challenged on the political front as “job-killing,” but the legal requirements remain in place. Regulators must enforce laws while debate rages. Conversations with Washington observers evoked not only vociferous criticism and fervent praise for those on the spot to keep energy regulation functioning, but also a general respect for the barriers regulators face.
The five top energy regulators in Washington all face substantial controversy. The Republican-led House has moved bills slashing funds for rules the GOP doesn’t like. None are passing the Senate, but fiscal year funding runs out September 30, so another Congressional face-off looms. A continuing resolution, which keeps all funding at fiscal 2011 levels, is likely, but won’t resolve the uncertainties over the regulatory future.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have more independence, because they’re all (FERC) or mostly (NRC) funded by user fees assessed on the entities they regulate. But their budgets must still be formally appropriated by Congress.
Proposals to give other key regulators more fee authority – at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement – have hit walls of opposition from their regulated industries. And the biggest regulator, the Environmental Protection Agency, remains fully dependent on taxpayers.
This week, AOL Energy is featuring Top Fives of various categories relevant to the energy industry. Read yesterday’s: Top Five Energy Law Firms.
Here’s an overview of the top regulators and what they’re facing: