On September 3, 2013, FERC approved proposed revisions by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) to simplify its process for exempting companies from compliance with Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) reliability standards.  According to NERC, the new process will operate more efficiently by streamlining the processes for submission, review, acceptance or rejection, and modification of previously accepted Technical Feasibility Exceptions (“TFE”).

Citing extensive industry experience after processing 3,800 TFE requests since the 2008 approval of the CIP standards, and after rarely encountering unique or unusual requests, NERC proposed the revisions to ease the administrative burden of processing the TFE requests.  The proposed changes included: (1)  allowing for a requesting company to submit a TFE for “class-based categories of devices;” (2) condensing a two-step process into a single step, where NERC will conduct a preliminary review of the application for completeness and make a decision as to whether to accept or deny it; (3) permitting the whole or partial approval of a TFE request, rather than only an entire approval; and (4) requiring a company to only submit an update to a previously approved TFE if there is a material change, rather than submitting quarterly reports.  In addition, the proposed revisions included reducing the time for processing a TFE request from one year to 60 days.

FERC accepted the proposed changes, but required NERC to submit a compliance filing within 90 days to address certain issues.  First, FERC directed NERC to establish a deadline for when a company must submit an update after a material change has occurred to a previously approved TFE.  FERC stated that this would assure the timely submission of such an update and promote regional consistency.  Second, FERC directed NERC to include several additions in its annual report to FERC.  Those changes included identifying the number of material change reports filed, and the number of TFEs approved that contain no expiration date.

A copy of the order is available here.