On June 17, 2021, FERC took two actions to encourage transmission development across the U.S.  Specifically, FERC issued an order establishing a joint state-federal task force to evaluate transmission development issues, and also issued a policy statement clarifying that states and public utilities remain free to coordinate and collaborate on transmission projects. As Chairman Glick stated in the Commission meeting announcing the order and policy statement, these actions are intended to enable FERC to be “fully engaged with [its] state partners,” ahead of “several transmission initiatives” that may be issued from the Commission in the coming months.

In the first order, FERC announced a collaboration with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”) to establish a first-of-its-kind joint federal-state task force to evaluate barriers to, and solutions to facilitate, enhanced transmission development. Acting under FERC’s Federal Power Act (“FPA”) section 209 authority to confer with state commissions regarding FERC-jurisdictional costs, rate structures, and other matters, FERC requested that NARUC nominate ten regulators across the U.S. within thirty days of the order’s issuance. The task force, which will include all FERC Commissioners, will hold its first meeting in Fall 2021, and will seek to, among other things:

  • Identify barriers that inhibit planning and development of optimal transmission facilities necessary to achieve federal and state policy goals, as well as potential solutions to those barriers;
  • Explore potential bases for one or more states to use FERC-jurisdictional transmission planning processes to advance their policy goals, including multi-state goals;
  • Explore opportunities for states to voluntarily coordinate on the identification, planning, and development of regional transmission solutions;
  • Review FERC rules and regulations regarding planning and cost allocation of transmission projects and potentially identify recommendations for reforms;
  • Examine barriers to the efficient and expeditious interconnection of new resources through the FERC-jurisdictional interconnection processes, as well as potential solutions to those barriers; and
  • Discuss mechanisms to ensure that transmission investment is cost effective, including approaches to enhance transparency and improve oversight of transmission investment including, potentially, through enhanced federal-state coordination.

Concurrent with the joint state-federal task force order, FERC also issued a policy statement to clarify certain apparent misunderstandings about the extent to which states and utilities can collaborate on transmission project development. Specifically, FERC clarified that neither the FPA nor the Commission’s rules and regulations categorically preclude voluntary agreements to plan and pay for new transmission facilities among the following: (1) two or more states; (2) one or more states and one or more public utility transmission providers; or (3) two or more public utility transmission providers. In addition, to the extent that states, public utilities, or other stakeholders believe that a public utility’s tariffs impose barriers to such voluntary agreements, FERC signaled an openness to filings “to remove or otherwise address those barriers.”

A copy of FERC’s order establishing the state-federal transmission task force, issued in Docket No. AD21-15, can be found here.

A copy of FERC’s Policy Statement, issued in Docket No. PL21-2, can be found here.