U.S. Bill Boosts Policing of Natgas, Power Markets

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"It will allow FERC to act more like a cop catching a robber in progress, instead of trying to piece together what happened at a crime scene after the fact."

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Wednesday pushed for passage of her legislation to give federal energy regulators more authority to curb manipulation in U.S. electricity and natural gas markets.

Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, introduced legislation this week to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to issue cease and desist orders to stop manipulation schemes while they are happening, instead of taking action after the damage has been done.

"It will allow FERC to act more like a cop catching a robber in progress, instead of trying to piece together what happened at a crime scene after the fact," Cantwell said at a Senate Energy Subcommittee hearing on energy market transparency.

Cantwell, who chairs the subcommittee, pointed out that the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission already have cease-and-desist authority.

The bill also allows FERC to freeze the assets of any trader or firm suspected of market manipulation. The agency also could change or suspend power rates for 30 days in an energy emergency caused by market manipulation.

Cantwell said the legislation "provides the FERC with the tools to stop bad actors before they wreak havoc on energy consumers and the economy."

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