On May 4, 2021, FERC issued Order No. 871-B, clarifying that the rule established in Order No. 871, which precludes FERC from authorizing natural gas pipeline companies to proceed with construction of approved pipeline projects, only applies until the earlier of either (a) the date that a qualifying rehearing request is no longer pending before FERC or (b) 90 days following the date that a qualifying request for rehearing may be deemed denied by operation of law. FERC also limited the application of this rule to requests for rehearing that raise issues reflecting opposition to project construction, operation, or need. Finally, FERC announced a general policy to stay Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) section 7 certificate orders during the rehearing period and pending resolution of any timely requests for rehearing. Commissioner James Danly dissented, arguing that the need for Order No. 871 is obviated by further developments on appeal of FERC’s practice of indefinite tolling orders before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) and that presumptively staying pipeline project construction is contrary to the NGA and is “bad policy.” Commissioner Mark Christie concurred with Order No. 871-B.

Continue Reading FERC Revises Policy on Authorizing Pipelines to Commence Construction Pending Requests for Rehearing of Certificate Orders

On April 15, 2021, FERC issued a declaratory order confirming that under FERC Order No. 1000, incumbent New York Transmission Owners (“NYTOs”) have a federal right of first refusal (“ROFR”) for upgrades to their existing transmission facilities, including upgrades that are part of another Developer’s transmission project selected in the regional transmission plan for cost allocation. Specifically, FERC declared that the foundational agreements and Section 31.6.4 of the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”) Open Access Transmission Tariff (“OATT”) established a ROFR of NYTOs to build, own and recover the cost of transmission upgrades to their existing facilities. In the same order, FERC denied requested clarification from the NYISO that such ROFR-exercising NYTOs could be considered “Developers” under the transmission planning process. FERC also provided additional clarity on the distinction between ROFR-eligible “upgrades” and new transmission facilities, indicating that different physical configurations resulting in power flow changes, increasing voltage/transfer capability, and performing different transmission functions, likely fall outside of traditional “upgrades.”

Continue Reading FERC Confirms NYTOs Federal Right of First Refusal to Build and Recover Cost of Upgrades to Existing Transmission Facilities

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 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 March 2, 2021, members of the United States House of Representatives introduced H.R.1512, the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act (“CLEAN Future Act”). The CLEAN Future Act, aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by 2050 in concert with the target identified by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C in order to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. H.R.1512 is a revision of draft legislation released in January 2020.
Continue Reading House Introduces CLEAN Future Act – A Comprehensive Bill to Achieve A Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Economy by 2050