It's not that the Department of Energy doesn't have the right ideas, it's just that they are having a few problems getting them implemented.
Take the case of the small refiner bias, for example.
Last November, the DOE publicly acknowledged that it was overcompensating small refiners (those refining under 15,000 barrels of crude oil a day) under the controversial and troubled "entitlements program."
It seems the small refiner bias in that entitlements program was so sweet, many firms built small refineries just to take advantage of the nearly $2 per barrel bonus the government was paying to small refiners to encourage their production.
So the DOE decided to put an end to that bias. In a notice of proposed rulemaking filed on Nov. 22, 1978 the DOE proposed amendments to the entitlements program. The small refiners would, under the proposed new rules, be reimbursed by the government only for the difference between their cost of refining and the cost of the larger refiners. The amount of the payments made would be tied to actual capacity.
At the same time, the proposal called for the small refiner bias program to be phased out altogether, eventually.
But when the DOE published its final amendments on May 2, 1979, it added a new twist, an automatic phase-out of the small refiner bias in conjunction with and in direct proportion to the president's announced gradual decontrol of all domestic oil production.
The problem was, however, that under existing regulations, the DOE has to submit such plans for public comment before it puts them in final rule-making proposals.
So seven small refiners sued the DOE, and last week U.S. District Court Judge Garrett Penn ruled that the DOE's attempt to attach the bias reduction to the gradual decontrol of oil "was promulgated in violation of DOE's own procedural requirements," which was enough for him to enjoin the DOE from enforcing its new phase-down plan.
So although the agency will be able to drop the bias from about $1.80 per barrel to about $.96 per barrel, it will not be allowed to diminish that bias further until it follows all of its own procedures with its proposal.
It is these kinds of procedural foul-ups that have placed the DOE under constant attack from all sides, even when there is general agreement over the agency's proposed action.
In fact, the Independent Gasoline Marketers Council, the Center for Auto Safety and several oil companies have suits pending against the DOE for the same type of violation -- in cases covering all points of the spectrum.
"The DOE is running its regulatory shop with almost no regard for procedural niceties," said Jack Blum of the IGMC.
News of regulators:
Stuart M. Statler has been sworn in as the newest member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Statler was a special assistant to the chairman of the National Commission on Product Safety from August 1968 to August 1970.
Statler also served as counsel to Sen. Charles Percy (R-Ill.) from 1971 to 1973 and had been chief minority counsel to the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations since 1971.
Former CPSC commissioner Barbara Hackman Franklin, meanwhile, has become a senior fellow -- a new faculty position -- at the Wharton School.
Daniel Brenner has been named legal assistant to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Charles D. Ferris. An attorney for Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering since December 1977, Brenner was president of the 1976 graduation class at Stanford Law School.