On May 14, 2015, the Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) in which it proposed to approve Reliability Standard TPL-007-1 regarding Geomagnetic Disturbance (“GMD”) Events.  According to the Commission, the Reliability Standard requires applicable Bulk-Power System (“BPS”) owners and operators to conduct initial and on-going vulnerability assessments regarding the potential impact of a benchmark (i.e.,1-in-100 year) GMD event on the BPS as a whole, and on BPS components individually.  In addition, the Commission stated that the proposed Reliability Standard requires applicable entities to develop and implement corrective action plans to mitigate any vulnerabilities identified by such assessments.

As explained by the Commission, GMDs can cause significant damage to the BPS.  On May 16, 2013, the Commission issued Order No. 779 in which it directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) to develop Reliability Standards that address the impact of GMDs on the reliable operation of the BPS (see May 21, 2013 edition of the WER).  The Commission specified that its directive was to be implemented in two stages.  First, NERC was required to submit one or more “First Stage” GMD Reliability Standards that require owners and operators of the BPS to develop and implement operational procedures to mitigate the effects of GMDs.  Second, NERC was required to submit one or more “Second Stage” GMD Reliability Standards that require the same owners and operators to conduct initial and on-going assessments of the potential impact of certain benchmark GMD events on BPS operation.  In the event that the owner or operator identified a potential impact during the assessment, the Commission directed that the Reliability Standard require owners or operators to develop and implement a plan to protect the BPS.  NERC submitted its First Stage Reliability Standard, EOP-010-1, on November 13, 2013, which was approved by the Commission on June 19, 2014, in Order No. 797.

On January 21, 2015, NERC submitted to the Commission for approval its Second Stage GMD Reliability Standard, TPL-007-1.  The standard, among other things, requires responsible entities to: (i) maintain system models needed to complete GMD vulnerability assessments; (ii) have criteria for acceptable system steady state voltage performance during a benchmark GMD event; and (iii) complete a GMD vulnerability assessment once every 60 calendar months.

In its May 14, 2015 NOPR, the Commission proposed to approve TPL-007-1.  The Commission also proposed to direct NERC to develop modifications to the Reliability Standard concerning: (i) the calculation of the reference peak geoelectric field amplitude component of the benchmark GMD event definition; (ii) the collection of certain monitoring and magnetometer data; and (iii) deadlines for completing corrective action plans and associated mitigation measures.

Comments on the May 14, 2015 NOPR are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

A copy of the Commission’s NOPR may be found here.