The Senators are asking the same questions that have been stinking up the FERC's aura for months.
1. Are parties who "do not otherwise appear frequently before FERC" held to different standards than the utilities who are part of the daily scenery at FERC?
2. Are there clear rules about what constitutes market manipulation? Are market participants given adequate notice about what constitutes a violation and treated fairly during an investigation? Is FERC pursuing "market manipulation" that was perfectly legal when it occurred?
3. Are deals made with utilities that could be construed as quid pro quo enforcement settlements in order to receive FERC approval for a different transaction?
Tough questions. Where are the answers?
You don't have to be one of the "white shoe" FERC regulars to think that something's off here. There's been enough written to make even common consumers question whether our recently politicized FERC plays favorites with its incumbent utility friends while saving its scary investigations and worst punishments for energy "outsiders" that dare to venture into its lair.
The Wall Street Journal gets right to the point:
Ad hoc settlements win political plaudits, but because companies usually neither admit nor deny wrongdoing, the settlements set no meaningful or coherent legal precedents.
Does FERC play footsie with gigantic utility holding companies? Case in point: FirstEnergy's 2012 scheme to drive up capacity prices in ATSI, which cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. Regulators didn't bat an eye because what FirstEnergy did was legal when they did it. But, not so for some of FERC's red-headed step children that aren't regulars at the Sunrise Cafe. Their ignorance of FERC's mysterious enforcement methods has cost them dearly.
Will DOE's Inspector General shake some of the political rot and decay out of 888 First Street and restore the public's respect and trust in the important work of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission?
I hope so.