On Friday, February 1, 2013, FERC denied a complaint brought by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. (“Tri-State”) against the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (“WECC”) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), alleging a conflict between the curtailment provisions of the pro forma Open Access Transmission Tariff (“OATT”) and the terms of a WECC Regional Reliability Standard (“IRO-006-WECC-1”).  FERC found that Tri-State had not demonstrated such a conflict, but denied the complaint without prejudice to Tri-State submitting a new or revised complaint alleging that an entity with a Commission-approved OATT has violated that OATT.

IRO-006-WECC-1 governs transmission loading relief procedures intended to mitigate transmission overloads resulting from unscheduled flow.  Under the first standard requirement, upon receiving a request for curtailment from a Transmission Operator, the relevant Reliability Coordinator approves or denies the request within five minutes.  Under the second standard requirement, if the transmission curtailment request is approved by the Reliability Coordinator, the relevant Balancing Authority approves the curtailment, implements alternative actions, or employs a combination thereof.  In addition, IRO-006-WECC-1 incorporates by reference WECC’s Unscheduled Flow Mitigation Plan (“UFMP”), which includes certain curtailment procedures to be implemented during times of unscheduled flow.

In October 2012, Tri-State filed a complaint pursuant to Federal Power Act sections 206 and 215(d)(6), alleging that WECC’s implementation of IRO-006-WECC-1 and the associated UFMP violate the curtailment priorities in the pro forma OATT that require all curtailments to be made on a non-discriminatory basis and that require non-firm transmission service shall have a lower priority than firm transmission service.  Tri-State argued that, by contrast, WECC’s curtailment methodology discriminates among transmission schedules based on whether they are provided on-path or off-path, and assigns curtailment priority irrespective of whether the schedule is non-firm or firm.

On Friday, the Commission denied the complaint, finding that Tri-State had not demonstrated a conflict between the terms of the reliability standard and the curtailment provisions of the pro forma OATT.  To that end, the Commission noted that IRO-006-WECC-1 allows for flexibility with regard to the schedules that are curtailed to meet the relief required in the standard.  That is, transmission providers initiate curtailment requests, and each transmission provider is responsible for making curtailment selections that comply with its OATT, using, if necessary, the ability to “implement alternative actions.”

The Commission also noted that Tri-State had not alleged, and therefore FERC did not address, whether any particular public utility transmission provider has violated the OATT curtailment priorities through its implementation of the standard.  However, the Commission stated that “[t]o the extent Tri-State believes one or more public utility transmission providers curtailed Tri-State’s transmission service in a manner inconsistent with a Commission-approved OATT, Tri-State may file a complaint against those entities.  If such an entity is non-jurisdictional, Tri-State could file a petition under FPA section 211A to the extent that Tri-State believes the service provided to it is not comparable to that which the non-jurisdictional utility provides itself.”

Finally, the Commission addressed Tri-State’s assertion that FERC should address the complaint because the UFMP is a practice affecting rates, citing to a Commission order involving the adoption of NERC’s transmission loading relief procedures as an operating practice that affects tariff provisions.  In response, the Commission noted that “in that proceeding, we found it appropriate to bring the complaint against a public utility provider under section 206, and we reach a similar conclusion here.”

To read the order, click here.

*Disclosure – Troutman Sanders LLP represented WECC in this FERC proceeding