Due to the unprecedented and rapidly changing landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, FERC has provided multiple resources and notices over the last two weeks. Three of those relevant releases include an Epidemic/Pandemic Response Plan Resource, a policy statement providing guidance to oil pipelines impacted by the pandemic, and a notice that FERC is temporarily delaying the processing of all hardcopy submissions.

  • On May 14, 2020, FERC, the North American Transmission Forum (“NATF”), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), and the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) released an Epidemic/Pandemic Response Plan Resource. This resource is intended to assist utilities in planning for, responding to, and recovering from epidemics or pandemics, and will be updated over the next several months as the circumstances related to the current COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve. The document details how companies in the electric industry can protect the health and safety of their employees while maintaining their operations’ security, communications, and essential business functions. While the Epidemic/Pandemic Response Plan Resource contains broadly applicable information on how electric transmission organizations can prepare for and adapt to future epidemics or pandemics, it also provides links to several resources specifically intended to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Epidemic/Pandemic Response Plan Resource can be found here.
  • On May 8, 2020, FERC released a policy statement providing guidance to oil pipelines that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In its statement, FERC recognized that oil pipelines may be facing unanticipated circumstances as a result of COVID-19 with the result that the pipelines may be unable to comply with certain FERC regulations due to measures taken by the pipelines to protect the health of their employees. FERC further acknowledged that these unanticipated circumstances may cause pipelines to seek to temporarily to alter their routes, reconfigure existing systems or change flow direction to provide shippers access to storage. FERC stated that it will assist oil pipelines in responding to such issues by reviewing and responding to temporary waivers or extensions as expeditiously as possible.

FERC specifically noted that temporary waivers from the following regulations may be appropriate: (i) cost-of-service filing requirements under Part 346; (ii) reporting requirements under Part 357: (iii) record-keeping requirements under Part 356; (iv) accounting regulations under Part 352; (v) and depreciation study requirements. FERC also suggested that requests for waiver of its 30-day prior notice requirement for tariff filings and requests for temporary rate relief that may diverge from FERC’s rate-change requirements may also be appropriate. Finally, in instances where an oil pipeline may need to temporarily curtail its jurisdictional transportation services, FERC stated that such pipelines may file notices of temporary embargo. FERC’s policy statement can be found here.

  • On May 8, 2020, FERC released a notice that it is temporarily delaying the processing of all hardcopy submissions delivered to its headquarters as a result of on-site personnel testing positive for COVID-19. FERC noted that this notice will remain in effect for fourteen days from the issuance of the notice—i.e., through May 22—unless otherwise extended. FERC reiterated that electronic filings and submissions submitted through FERC’s eFiling application are not impacted by this notice and encouraged continued use of electronic submissions.  FERC’s notice can be found here.

In order to better assist their clients in navigating the COVID-19 threat, Troutman Sanders LLP and Pepper Hamilton LLP have assembled a COVID-19 Task Force, which provides regular insights and resources during this ongoing threat.