Little can be done administratively to provide relief from disorder in natural gas markets, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said yesterday in a letter to the chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee that handles natural gas legislation.
At the same time, the Fossil and Synthetic Fuels subcommittee made public an analysis of responses from gas producers and pipeline companies to questions about what steps they are taking to bring contracts in line with market conditions. Those responses indicate that little relief will come from that direction either, according to the staff analysis.
Both assessments seem to point to the necessity of congressional action to solve the difficult questions of natural gas pricing and whether to remove or add to price controls. The problem is that prices are escalating sharply even though demand is in a slump and that certain contracts have locked pipeline companies into high-cost supplies.
"I continue to believe that appropriate legislative action by the Congress is crucial to a timely solution of current disorders in natural gas markets," FERC Chairman C.M. (Mike) Butler III wrote subcommittee Chairman Philip R. Sharp (D-Ind.). Butler has suggested to President Reagan that a blue-ribbon panel be appointed to study the problems, in a setting somewhat removed from political pressures, to come up with a proposal for congressional action.
Sharp had asked what steps FERC might take to help rationalize gas pricing.