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On March 23, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the “Second Circuit” or the “Court”) agreed with FERC’s determination that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) had waived its certification authority under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) by failing to act within the one-year statutory deadline. Notably, the Second Circuit held that a state agency cannot revise a certification request date by written agreement with the applicant, thereby altering the one-year statutory deadline for state action. Denying the petitions for rehearing by DEC and the Sierra Club, the Court applied the same reasoning it applied in New York State Dep’t of Env’t Conservation v. FERC (“New York I”), 884 F.3d 450, 455-56 (2d Cir. 2018) (see March 20, 2018 edition of the WER) where the Second Circuit determined that DEC could not unilaterally alter the application date based on when it considered an application complete “because that approach would allow a state agency not only to dictate when the review process can begin but also to delay it indefinitely.” There, to avoid such a subjective standard, the Second Circuit established a bright line rule that the beginning of the review is determined by the date “of receipt of such request.”

Continue Reading Second Circuit Sides with FERC – States May Not Agree to Revise the Certification Request Date to Avoid Waiver of its Certification Authority Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act

On March 18, 2021, FERC issued a Final Rule amending its regulations to establish a one-year period for states, tribes, or other certifying authorities (“Certifying Agencies”) to act on a Clean Water Act (“CWA”) Section 401 water quality certification request for proposed natural gas and liquefied natural gas projects.
Continue Reading FERC Establishes Water Quality Certification Waiver Period for Natural Gas Projects

On March 5, 2021, FERC issued a Notice of Virtual Listening Sessions and Public Comment Period soliciting input on how it should establish and operate its Office of Public Participation (OPP) pursuant to section 319 of the Federal Power Act (FPA).  Commission staff, led by Commissioner Clements, held the first public listening session on March 17, and additional listening sessions and a Technical Workshop are scheduled for the coming weeks.
Continue Reading Addressing Environmental Justice: FERC Holds Virtual Listening Sessions and Accepts Public Comments on Development of the Office of Public Participation

On March 22, 2021, FERC, for the first time, assessed the significance of a proposed natural gas pipeline project’s greenhouse gas emissions (“GHGs”) and their contribution to climate change when it approved Northern Natural Gas Company’s (“Northern”) South Sioux City to Sioux Falls A-line Replacement project (“Project”). As proposed, Northern will abandon in-place certain pipeline facilities in Nebraska and South Dakota, construct and operate approximately 87.3 miles of replacement pipeline, and modify existing and install new above-ground facilities. While all five FERC Commissioners agreed to approve the Project, both Commissioner Danly and Commissioner Christie dissented from FERC’s decision to determine the significance of GHGs in an individual pipeline proceeding.

Continue Reading FERC Changes Course, Considers Pipeline’s GHGs Significance and Climate Impacts

On March 18, 2021, FERC issued Order No. 2222-A, setting aside its finding in Order No. 2222 that demand response resource participation in heterogeneous distributed energy resource (“DER”) aggregations are subject to the opt-out and opt-in requirements of Order Nos. 719 and 719-A, as well as clarifying other requirements in Order No. 2222 concerning Qualifying Facility (“QF”) interconnection policies, restrictions to avoid double-counting services, and information sharing and criteria for the distribution utility review process. Concurrent with Order No. 2222-A, FERC also issued a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking comment on whether to revise its more than a decade-old regulations requiring Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (“RTO/ISO”) not to accept bids from an aggregator of retail customers (“ARC”) where the relevant electric retail regulatory authority (“RERRA”) prohibits such customers’ demand response resources from being bid into organized markets (“Demand Response Opt-Out”). Specifically, the NOI applies only to regulations where an ARC aggregates the demand response of the customers of utilities that distributed more than four million megawatt-hours in the previous fiscal year and is intended to examine whether changing circumstances warrant revision of the Demand Response Opt-Out and whether the RTO/ISO market would benefit from including currently barred Demand Response Opt-Out resources.

Continue Reading FERC to Allow Distributed Energy Resource Aggregations in Wholesale Electric Markets to Include Demand Response Resources

On February 26, 2021, FERC accepted a proposal from Entergy Services, LLC (“Entergy”) to amend a wholesale rate schedule, the Unit Power Sales Agreement (“UPSA”), subject to refund and set the matter for hearing.  FERC also instituted an investigation under section 206 of the FPA to allow customers to recover refunds associated with any further rate reduction, consolidated various related Entergy proceedings on accumulated deferred income taxes (“ADIT”), set a hearing procedure and held those procedures in abeyance pending the issuance of further FERC orders.
Continue Reading FERC Sets Entergy’s Proposal to Amend the Unit Power Sales Agreement for Hearing to Determine Whether Customers Should Receive a Bigger Rate Decrease

On February 18, 2021, FERC issued two orders terminating the proceedings stemming from the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Proposed Rule on Grid Reliability and Resilience (“Proposed Rule”). FERC previously established rulemaking proceedings in Docket No. RM18-1-000 to consider the proposed rule, which was submitted to FERC by the DOE in September 2017 pursuant to the Department of Energy Organization Act section 403 (“DOE Proposed Rulemaking Proceeding”). FERC terminated the DOE Proposed Rulemaking Proceeding on January 8, 2018 (see January 17, 2018 issue of the WER), instead opening an inquiry proceeding in Docket No. AD18-7-000 (“Inquiry Proceeding”) to evaluate the resilience of the bulk power system in the regions operated by regional transmission organizations (“RTOs”) and independent system operators (“ISOs”). On February 18, 2021, FERC: 1) issued an order on rehearing that sustained its decision to terminate the DOE Proposed Rulemaking Proceeding in Docket No. RM18-1-000; and 2) terminated the Inquiry Proceeding in Docket No. AD18-7-000.  Commissioner Neil Chatterjee issued a dissenting opinion in the order terminating the Inquiry Proceeding.
Continue Reading FERC Sustains Prior Termination of Grid Reliability and Resilience Rulemaking Proceeding; Terminates Grid Resilience Inquiry Proceeding

On January 19, 2021 FERC issued an order on the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (“NERC”) compliance filings submitted pursuant to the Commission’s January 2020 order on NERC’s five-year performance assessment. FERC’s January 19 order approved NERC’s proposed modifications to its Rules of Procedure regarding: (1) Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (“E-ISAC”); (2) Sanction