Federal Power Commission
|Formed||June 23, 1930|
|Dissolved||October 1, 1977|
The Federal Power Commission (FPC) was an independent commission of the United States government, originally organized on June 23, 1930, with five members nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The FPC was originally created in 1920 by the Federal Water Power Act, which provided for the licensing by the FPC of hydroelectric projects on the land or navigable water owned by the federal government. The FPC has since been replaced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The FPC also regulated interstate electric utilities and the natural gas industry.
In June 1939, President Roosevelt appointed Leland Olds to the FPC, who served as chairman from January 1940 until 1949. Under Olds’ leadership, the FPC successfully pressured electric utilities to extend power into neglected rural areas and to lower electricity rates to increase use.
Olds' insistence on enforcing the Natural Gas Act of 1938 raised the ire of the oil industry in Texas and led to the end of his tenure at the FPC. Robert Caro's book Master of the Senate describes how Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Olds' re-appointment by orchestrating a smear campaign. The tactics involved having the staff of the House Un-American Activities Committee dig up old writings, which were then taken out of context to create a false image of Olds as a communist. The subcommittee in charge of reappointment was stacked against Leland and coached by Johnson.
James G. Watt was another prominent FPC commissioner, who conducted prayer meetings prior to the FPC sessions.
From its founding in 1920 until its first reform in 1930, the FPC did not have its own commissioners; rather, it was chaired ex officio by the Secretaries of War, Interior, and Agriculture. The first "Chairman" in that sense was Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker. Before 1930, five Secretaries of War, five Secretaries of the Interior, and five Secretaries of Agriculture held title at the FPC.
Following the 1930 reforms, FPC had its own commissioners, with the following commissioners holding the title of Chairman of the Federal Power Commission:
- George Otis Smith 1930-1933
- Frank R. McNinch 1934-1937
- Clyde L. Seavey 1939
- Leland Olds 1939-1949
- Monrad Wallgren 1950–1951
- Thomas C. Buchanan 1952
- Jerome Kuykendall 1953 -1961
- Joseph C. Swidler 1961
- Lee C. White 1966-1969
- John Nassikas, 1969 to 1975
- Charles B. Curtis 1977 (through renaming to FERC)
- 46 Stat. 797
- 41 Stat. 1063
- 16 United States Code 791-823, the Federal Water Power Act