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Application and Enforcement of the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978: Administrative and Legal Problems

Richard G. Morgan, Proceedings of 25th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1979)

On November 9, 1978, President Carter signed into law the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 (NGPA or Act).1 The NGPA signaled a new era in the federal control of the natural gas industry. The first seven months of the Act's existence saw gas producers, among others, struggle to comply with the new law's requirements as well as with a mystifying myriad of rules and regulations spawned by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission).2 This period also saw the Commission muster [13-2] its forces in an attempt to deal with the administrative burdens imposed on it by the NGPA.

One of the Commission's duties vital to the practical success of the NGPA is the overall enforcement of the Act's provisions. The Commission only recently has begun to define its enforcement policies with regard to the NGPA, but indications are that FERC will pursue its responsibilities with an enthusiasm and a diligence not present in its previous enforcement efforts.

This paper will address the nature and source of the Commission's enforcement authority under the NGPA and its impact on the natural gas industry. The paper also will analyze the method and manner in which the Commission can be expected to exercise its enforcement powers. Finally, it will consider several problems which the Act's enforcement provisions and the Commission's regulations present. Particular attentio