On March 27, 2020, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee and senior FERC staff members began periodic meetings with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”), the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the National Governors Association to coordinate efforts to help ensure the reliability of the nation’s energy transmission and distribution systems during the coronavirus pandemic. FERC and NARUC are currently urging all state authorities to designate utility workers as essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure.
FERC has already taken a number of steps to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of FERC employees and the public:
- On March 13, 2020, Chairman Chatterjee announced that: (1) FERC voted to cancel the March open meeting and Commissioners would vote notationally on the matters that were scheduled to have been considered at the meeting; (2) FERC staff have been highly encouraged to telework until further notice; and (3) FERC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters are closed to all outside visitors, unless cleared for entry by the Office of the Executive Director.
- On March 18, 2020, FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) provided industry guidance to ensure grid reliability amid potential coronavirus impacts. FERC and NERC announced that on-site audits would be postponed until at least July 31, 2020, and that they would use regulatory discretion to consider the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in complying with reliability standards.
- On March 19, 2020, FERC issued a press release and Notice detailing procedural delays at FERC (see March 20, 2020 edition of the WER). Among other actions, FERC found good cause to extend all non-statutory deadlines until May 1, 2020, delayed technical conferences indefinitely, postponed at least one hearing and affirmed they would make case-specific calls on other hearings as their start dates approach.
- Also on March 19, 2020, Chairman Chatterjee named Caroline Wozniak as the Coronavirus Liaison, which will serve as FERC’s point of contact for all industry related impacts on FERC-jurisdictional activities. Wozinak has formed a team of fourteen technical staff representing each of FERC’s twelve program offices.
Overall, FERC states that it remains fully functional with telework capabilities and more than 1,400 employees working remotely, has maintained regular contact with various groups, including the regional transmission organizations and independent system operators, and does not anticipate the coronavirus pandemic to affect the reliability of the Bulk Electric System.
A copy of FERC’s order and public messages on COVID-19 are available here.