On Thursday, March 19, in lieu of its monthly Commission meeting, FERC issued a Notice regarding its response to the Novel Coronavirus Disease (“COVID-19”) and the President’s March 13 declaration of a National Emergency. Chairman Neil Chatterjee delivered comments about the Notice and the Commission’s operations in the coming weeks and months.
FERC’s Notice generally finds good cause to extend until May 1, 2020 several classes of filings—excluding those with statutory deadlines—for “entities that are unable to meet deadlines due to steps they have taken to meet the emergency conditions.” The Notice establishes three categories of filings to which this extension will apply, including: (1) the deadline for filing forms required by the Commission, with the exception of FERC Form No. 6, the Annual Report of Oil Pipeline Companies; (2) the deadline for other non-statutory filings, including compliance filings, responses to deficiency letters, or rulemaking comments; and (3) the deadline for entities to make filings required by their tariffs or rate schedules.
The Notice also provides that entities may request extensions of other types of deadlines, including those for filing interventions or protests, or filing answers, and they may request further extensions of the three categories of required filings described above. Lastly, the Notice states that entities may request waiver of the Commission’s orders, regulations, tariffs, and rate schedules to address needs stemming from their coronavirus response.
In Chairman Chatterjee’s accompanying statement, he described steps already taken by the Commission in response to the coronavirus, including his designating a Commission point of contact for all industry inquiries related to the impacts of COVID-19 on their FERC-jurisdictional activities. He stated that, at this time, most Commission employees are teleworking until further notice; ALJ hearings and technical conferences have either been postponed or moved to conference call; and FERC’s headquarters building is closed to outside visitors. The Chairman echoed the Notice’s focus on flexibility in response to these challenging circumstances, stating that he is “committed to ensuring that industry can focus on continuity, safety and stability—not regulatory or enforcement matters that are not mission-critical during this crisis.” To that end, he indicated that the Commission would be exercising its enforcement discretion and granting relief as appropriate, including by postponing audit visits and investigative testimony, and granting extensions and waivers of compliance filings. Additionally, he described the Commission’s close working relationship with the states, other federal agencies, and NERC to ensure the reliability of the grid in the weeks and months ahead.