On December 17, 2020, FERC issued an order concluding its review of the index level used to determine annual changes to oil pipeline rate ceilings, establishing an index level of Producer Price Index for Finished Goods plus 0.78% (PPI-FG+0.78%), and also issued a Withdrawal of Proposed Policy Statement on Oil Pipeline Affiliate Contracts, the latter of which drew a dissenting opinion from Commissioner Richard Glick.
Continue Reading FERC Establishes New Oil Index Level and Withdraws Proposed Affiliate Contract Guidance for Oil Pipelines

On December 7, 2020, FERC issued an order on rehearing sustaining its previous order in which it: found that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) uplift allocation rules were unjust, unreasonable, and unduly preferential as they did not allocate uplift to Up-to-Congestion (“UTC”) transactions; and directed PJM to update its rate. FERC disagreed with comments provided by XO Energy MA, LP (“XO Energy”) that FERC’s previous order was inconsistent with cost causation principles, since the record in the proceedings did not support a finding that UTCs are the cause of capacity-related costs that would be passed through as uplift.
Continue Reading FERC Affirms Previous Order Requiring PJM to Bill UTC Transactions for Uplift

On November 19, 2020, FERC issued Order No. 872-A, an order denying rehearing and clarifying portions of Order No. 872, which revised the regulations implementing the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”). In Order No. 872-A, FERC affirmed its previous PURPA regulation amendments in Order No. 872, but provided further explanation regarding six key reforms: (1) states’ use of tiered avoided cost pricing; (2) states’ use of variable energy rates in qualifying facility (“QF”) contracts and availability of utility avoided cost data; (3) the role of independent entities overseeing competitive solicitations that set avoided cost rates; (4) the circumstances under which a small power production QF needs to recertify; (5) the application of the rebuttable presumption of separate sites for the purpose of determining the power production capacity of small power production facilities; and (6) the PURPA section 210(m) rebuttable presumption of nondiscriminatory access to markets and accompanying regulatory text.
Continue Reading FERC Denies Rehearing, But Clarifies Various Aspects of the New PURPA Rules

On November 5, 2020, FERC approved Southern California Edison Company’s (“SoCal Edison”) request to utilize a May 2020 formula rate sales forecast rather than its April 2020 sales forecast, as required by Appendix IX of SoCal Edison’s Transmission Owner Tariff (“Tariff”). The updated sales forecast, which informs SoCal Edison’s wholesale and retail transmission rate-recovery and true-up calculations, reflects a decrease in sales revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a dissenting opinion, then-Commissioner James Danly opposed the waiver, citing previous criticisms that such FERC action violates the filed rate doctrine and the rule against retroactive ratemaking (see October 28, 2020 edition of the WER).
Continue Reading FERC Grants Formula Rate Tariff Waiver; Then-Commissioner Danly Reiterates Criticisms of Retroactivity

On October 15, 2020, FERC issued a notice of proposed policy statement (“Proposed Policy Statement”) with proposed guidance for oil pipeline carriers to demonstrate through tariff filings or declaratory order petitions that the rates and terms in long-term contracts with affiliate shippers (“Affiliate Contracts”) are just, reasonable, and not unduly discriminatory under the Interstate Commerce Act (“ICA”).
Continue Reading FERC Proposes Guidance on Oil Pipeline Carrier Contracts with Affiliates

On October 7, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (“Ninth Circuit”) vacated, as moot, two FERC orders asserting concurrent jurisdiction to review the disposition of certain Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation (“PG&E”) power purchase agreements (“PPAs”) that PG&E sought to reject through bankruptcy. In a brief memorandum decision, a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel explained that the orders had become moot when the bankruptcy court confirmed a reorganization plan that had PG&E assume, rather than reject, the PPAs. In the same decision, the Ninth Circuit vacated a related bankruptcy court order in which the bankruptcy court determined that FERC does not have concurrent jurisdiction with the bankruptcy courts over the rejection of such PPAs. In vacating the three orders, the Ninth Circuit expressed no opinion on the merits of the consolidated appeal, and left open the question of whether FERC and the bankruptcy courts have concurrent jurisdiction over wholesale power contracts in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Vacates FERC and Bankruptcy Court Orders, Avoiding Jurisdictional Dispute Over PPAs in Bankruptcy

On September 23, 2020, staff from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) and FERC (collectively, “Joint Staff”) issued a second joint white paper that reversed previous recommendations regarding publicly disclosing the identities of entities accused of Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) violations. As stated in the Second Joint Whitepaper, the previous recommendation to publicly disclose CIP violator names and other information raised “substantial risks to the security of the Bulk-Power System.” Accordingly, the Second Joint Whitepaper stated that from now on, NERC will request that CIP noncompliance filings be treated as Critical Energy/Electric Infrastructure Information (“CEII”). FERC Staff will also designate such filings as CEII in their entirety.  Additionally, because of the risk associated with the disclosure of CIP noncompliance information, NERC will no longer publicly post redacted versions of CIP noncompliance filings and submittals.
Continue Reading FERC and NERC Staff Reverse Course, Opt for Confidentiality on CIP Violations

On September 17, 2020, FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking comments on strategies to mitigate any potential risks to the bulk electric system posed by telecommunications equipment and services produced or provided by entities identified as risks to national security. Huawei Technologies Company (“Huawei”) and ZTE Corporation (“ZTE”) have been identified as examples of such entities because they provide communication systems and other equipment and services that are critical to bulk electric system reliability.
Continue Reading FERC Opens Inquiry into Foreign Adversary-Provided Bulk Power System Telecommunications Equipment, Focusing on Huawei and ZTE Equipment Threat

On July 23, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) granted FERC’s motion for a ninety-day stay of the court’s mandate in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC. In Allegheny, the D.C. Circuit rejected FERC’s long-used practice of issuing “tolling orders” to grant itself more time to consider

Executive Summary of FERC Order No. 872: Qualifying Facility Rates and Requirements Implementation Issues Under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 [1]

I. Overview

On July 16, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) issued Order No. 872, the Commission’s final order revising its regulations implementing Sections 201 and 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) [2]. This order, which follows a 2016 technical conference on PURPA issues and a September 2019 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) [3], is the first major set of revisions to FERC’s regulations implementing PURPA since they were established through Order No. 69 in 1980.

As FERC explained in the NOPR, the energy landscape has evolved in significant ways since the initial PURPA regulations were established, which includes increased supplies of natural gas, a more matured renewables industry, and the growing presence of non-Qualifying Facility (QF) independent power producers. These and other changes prompted FERC to revise its PURPA regulations, many of which are implemented by the states. These new changes provide additional guidance to state commissions regarding PURPA implementation and rests additional authority in state commissions regarding QF rates and contract terms.
Continue Reading Analyzing FERC’s Order Updating PURPA Regulations for First Time in Almost 40 Years