The Regulatory Response to Crisis: Crisis, Congress, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
DeLor, Michael J
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This study is designed to examine how much of an impact crisis or the perception of a crisis might have on Congressional policy making for private electric utilities and how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reacts to Congressional action or inaction in such cases. Also, where appropriate the influence and impact of other actors in the different crises are mentioned. The first set of findings came from the era running from 1977 to 1986 as FERC was created by Congress in 1977 to address in part the stagflationary crisis of the 1970s of which electric utilities played an important role. Next, the Congressional response to the Gulf War and FERC's reaction to it is analyzed as in that case legislators were reacting to the perception that another energy driven economic crisis in the U.S. might occur as happened after the OPEC oil embargo of 1973. Finally, the study examines the Congressional response and FERC's reaction to the Midwest price spike, the California electricity crisis, the Northeast blackout of 2003, and the financial decline of electric utilities nationally due to the failures of wholesale electricity market restructuring. Modern technology driven societies like the U.S. need access to vast supplies of cheap reliable electricity to run everything from computer systems to public sanitation systems. Most of that electricity in the U.S. is provided by private electric utilities. As a result, this study focuses primarily on federal public policies, created by Congress and implemented by FERC, related to private utilities. Yet, despite the importance of electricity to contemporary societies, public affairs scholarship has generally not addressed this issue. In order to probe the impact of Congress and FERC, I examine interconnected events and actions that take place at different points in time to determine what influence, if any, these organizations have had. Crisis seems to be the primary causal mechanism pushing Congress to act in this area of public policy. Indicators of Congressional action include hearings, proposed federal legislation, and statutes, while indicators of a response from FERC include the issuance of orders, opinions, and formal docketed decisions.
- Doctoral Dissertations