Agency scaling back mountain of paper
- By William Matthews
- Oct 05, 2000
After a year of testing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has decided
to accept electronic documents as substitutes for paper in certain cases.
The change is intended to begin carving away at a mountain of paperwork
at the agency, which regulates oil, gas and electricity sales and transmission.
Starting Nov. 1, FERC plans to accept electronic versions of documents filed
in oil pipeline rate cases and in a wide range of protests of agency decisions,
including its decisions on oil pipeline rates.
Under current regulations, the agency requires submitting original paper
documents and as many as 14 paper copies in some kinds of rate-setting matters.
After Nov. 1, however, only electronic copies will be necessary, and they
can be submitted via the Internet. Paper documents will continue to be accepted.
Among the acceptable electronic documents are comments on applications and
filings, protests of FERC decisions, environmental documents and certain
types of technical submissions.
FERC is proceeding cautiously into the electronic arena. The agency will
continue to require paper versions of documents pertaining to rate-making
and settlements. Paper documents will also be required for matters that
are scheduled for hearings.
In addition, agency officials said they will not accept electronic transfers
of funds or documents that entail financial or legal liability. And FERC
will not accept electronic submissions containing information that the sender
wishes to remain confidential.
In the long run, however, FERC officials said they expect "gradually to
expand the categories of submissions" that can be made electronically because
electronic filing "will reduce the burden and expense associated with paper
filings, and help make information available to the public in a faster and
more efficient manner."
Economy and efficiency are not the only motivations. In a published notice
on the plan, officials also stated that they are required to substitute
electronic documents for paper ones under Congress' Government Paperwork
Elimination Act and the administration's Circular A-130.
FERC is preparing to issue detailed instructions on how to make electronic
submissions, including instructions for establishing and using identifications