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With shutdown in question, US CFTC has plan for limited staff to oversee markets


FERC, EIA in the clear, with funding approved in September

CFTC would have 61 employees, commissioners on hand

Washington — With a potential US government shutdown looming midnight Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was set to continue operating, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had made plans to keep limited staff on hand to monitor derivatives markets.

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FERC overseas natural gas and electric markets, while the CFTC oversees derivatives of energy products and other commodities.

It was not clear at press time whether a stop-gap deal would be worked out by the end of the day Friday to avert a shutdown of about a quarter of the government. President Donald Trump said midday Friday "the chances are probably very good" for a shutdown, suggesting it is now up to the Democrats.

An agreement appeared in hand earlier in the week, and a continuing resolution to keep the government running passed the Senate by voice vote. That was upended December 20 when Trump surprised lawmakers by returning to the position that he would not sign a bill unless it contained more funding for a border wall. The House of Representatives subsequently tossed back a bill with added border funding included, but that was expected to fail in the Senate.

Fiscal-year 2019 funding for FERC was included in an energy and water appropriations measure that already cleared Congress and was signed by the president in September.

CFTC appropriations are among the portions of government spending that hung in the balance midday Friday.


In a December 18 letter to the Office of Management and Budget, the CFTC said that if a lapse in appropriations occurs, a majority of its operations will cease. But it identified 61 employees, or 9.1% of the staff needed to "address an imminent risk to the safety of human life or the protection of property."

The exempted employees will include staff to oversee and perform surveillance on futures markets, clearinghouses, and intermediaries.

A small subset of enforcement staff also would stay on to address open and active litigation, the letter said. As presidential appointees, commissioners are exempted, and the whistleblowers office continues to run because it has a separate funding source.

Most other CFTC operations would lapse, including work on rulemakings under the Dodd-Frank Act. The agency would continue to publish its Commitments of Traders reports, which list aggregate information on positions in derivatives markets, with some schedule adjustments for the holidays. The next two releases will use Monday data, while the publication date will be Friday as usual, the CFTC said on its website.


Given that its budget already has been approved, like FERC, the Department of Energy would continue to operate during a partial shutdown. The next weekly natural gas storage estimate produced by its Energy Information Administration, which is normally released Thursdays, will be pushed back a day to December 28 because of the Christmas holiday.

The shutdown is not expected to affect the Interior Department's regular inspections of oil and gas operations on federal lands and in federal waters. Industry sources claim the agency's proposed five-year offshore plan, expected to be released by mid-January, could be delayed if a shutdown occurs. In addition, some Interior rules, such as a final offshore well-control-safety rule, may also be delayed.

-- Maya Weber,

-- Brian Scheid,

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson,