Regulated Enterprise

Natural Gas Pipelines and Northeastern Markets, 1938–1954

Christopher James Castaneda

Historical Perspectives on Business Enterprise



203 pp. 6x9

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Christopher Castaneda’s study of the construction of the pipelines that transported southwestern gas to the Northeast traces the ways in which the federal regulatory process fostered competitive growth in the natural gas industry.

In 1938, the Natural Gas Act granted the Federal Power Commission jurisdiction over the interstate transmission and sale of natural gas. The FPC used its new powers to guide, shape, and manage an intensely competitive period in the industry. As Castaneda shows, aggressive and politically astute entrepreneurs based in the Southwest took advantage of economic opportunity and a regulatory environment conducive to industry growth. They financed and built the nation's longest gas pipelines to connect the massive southwestern reserves with the major northern energy markets. The coal industry, which supplied the raw product for manufactured gas, and the railroad industry, which transported the coal, adamantly but unsuccessfully opposed the action and attempted to halt the introduction of natural gas into their northeastern markets. First, during the war years, emergency regulatory agencies directed the expansion of the industry into Appalachia. Then, in the ensuing peacetime, market forces prompted entrepreneurs to compete vigorously for regulatory approval to build pipelines to sell natural gas in the Northeast.

While previous studies have examined the development of the natural gas industry after 1954, when the Supreme Court’s Phillips decision established the FPC as a regulator of price control rather than as a manager of industrial growth, Castaneda’s is the first to examine this earlier entrepreneurial era. Based on exhaustive research in corporate records and government documents, Regulated Enterprise offers a case study of government-business relations during a period of rapid industrial expansion and suggests a new way of looking at federal regulation and competitive growth.

Christopher James Castaneda is the director of the Oral History of Houston Economy project. He is the author of articles on the gas industry and is coauthoring a biography of Herman and George R. Brown.