The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is investigating two possible cases of market manipulation during Winter Storm Elliott in late December, the agency said Thursday in its annual enforcement report.
FERC’s Division of Analytics and Surveillance is reviewing data and information it has gathered in its inquiries into market behavior during the winter storm, which could lead to additional investigations, the agency said.
The investigations are based on six inquiries stemming from the division’s “enhanced surveillance” related to Winter Storm Elliott. The inquiries included outreach and data requests to power plant personnel, marketers and pipelines, according to the report.
FERC staff conducts enhanced market surveillance when wholesale energy prices are unusually high, according to the report. Those efforts may include seeking additional data from the Intercontinental Exchange market and talking to market participants, other federal agencies and state regulators.
FERC is also investigating a market participant for possible manipulation of the California Independent System Operator market and other Western markets during an energy price spike in the region in late 2022 and early 2023, according to the report.
Agency staff closed one investigation into possible market manipulation during Winter Storm Uri, but other investigations into market behavior during the February 2021 cold weather event are ongoing, FERC Acting Chairman Willie Phillips said during a media briefing Thursday.
“Those people who committed market manipulation, or if there was any fraud that was imposed upon our consumers, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Office of Enforcement, we will find you, we will punish you and you will pay the price,” Phillips said.
Information about the investigations is confidential.
FERC Commissioner Allison Clements praised the agency’s enhanced market surveillance. “These efforts to detect and prevent market manipulation in times of system stress are vital to maintaining the integrity of the energy markets,” she said Thursday during the agency’s monthly meeting.
FERC enforcement staff opened 19 investigations in fiscal year 2023, with at least 11 involving potential market manipulation, six dealing with potential tariff violations, and three involving possible misrepresentations that are barred by the agency’s Duty of Candor rule, the commission said. The agency closed nine investigations without taking action.
FERC approved 12 enforcement office settlement agreements totaling about $48.8 million in FY23 compared with 11 approved agreements totaling $57.5 million in FY22, according to the report.
Some of the companies reaching agreements with the enforcement office are FirstEnergy, Entergy Arkansas, Leapfrog Power, NRG Energy, OhmConnect and PacifiCorp, according to the report.
In FY23, FERC’s Division of Audits and Accounting completed nine audits of public utility, natural gas and oil pipeline companies, with 68 findings of non-compliance and $33 million in refunds and other recoveries.