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Russell Kooistra counsels an array of energy companies on various issues related to natural gas and electricity markets. Russell uses his in-depth knowledge of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) policy and regulations to advise clients on complex regulatory matters.

On April 29, 2022, the FERC rejected Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.’s (“MISO”) proposed tariff revisions that sought to “extend” MISO Transmission Owners’ option to self-fund transmission upgrades so as to apply to Necessary Upgrades to support the connection of Merchant High Voltage Direct Current (“MHVDC”) transmission into MISO. FERC found that MISO failed to show its proposal was just and reasonable because MISO argued that Network Upgrades and Necessary Upgrades were functionally identical yet only proposed to extend the self-funding option traditionally applied to Network Upgrades without also extending other funding options and protections for customers.
Continue Reading FERC Rejects MISO Proposal for Transmission Owners to Self-fund Necessary Upgrades to Connect Merchant HVDC Lines

On April 21, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to reform its policies regarding Regional Transmission Planning and Cost Allocation. The NOPR follows from an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) on these reforms, which FERC issued in July 2021. Representing FERC’s most significant action on transmission planning and cost allocation in more than a decade, the NOPR outlines six major proposals:
Continue Reading Summary of FERC’s April 2022 NOPR on Transmission Planning, Cost Allocation, and Generator Interconnection

On March 24, 2022, FERC changed course and designated the two policy statements it issued last month regarding the certification of interstate natural gas pipelines (“Updated Policy Statement”) and consideration of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions in natural gas project reviews (“Interim GHG Policy Statement”) as draft policy statements. The two draft policy statements will not apply to pending project applications or applications filed before FERC finalizes the policy statements. FERC also requested initial comments on the draft policy statements by April 25, 2022.
Continue Reading FERC Changes Policy Statements on Pipeline Certification and GHG Emissions to Draft Policy Statements, Seeks Comment on Draft Policy Statements

On February 18, 2022, FERC issued two new, significant policies governing how FERC will review proposals for new natural gas pipeline projects (see February 18, 2022, Troutman Pepper Insight). Headlining these policies is FERC’s new interim greenhouse gas (“GHG”) policy statement (“Interim GHG Policy Statement”), pursuant to which FERC will presume any gas project with 100,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalents (“CO2e”) emissions to have a significant impact on climate change, and thus any such project will trigger the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”). Notwithstanding the interim nature of FERC’s new Interim GHG Policy Statement – where FERC is accepting comments by April 4, 2022 – FERC clarified that it will apply both policies to all pending and new project applications, effective immediately. Both commissioners James Danly and Mark Christie issued lengthy dissents to both policy statements.
Continue Reading FERC Overhauls Existing Pipeline Project Analysis, Creates Separate Interim GHG Policy for Gas Infrastructure Projects.

On February 4, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“DC Circuit”) issued a per curiam order granting NTE Connecticut, LLC’s (“NTE”) petition for issuance of a writ under the All Writs Act to stay a FERC order issued January 3, 2022 (“January 3 Order”). The January 3 Order terminated the Killingly Energy Center’s capacity commitments in the ISO-New England, Inc. (“ISO-NE”) capacity market. The DC Circuit’s order stays FERC’s January 3 Order until 30 days after FERC resolves NTE’s pending request for rehearing of the January 3 Order. The DC Circuit’s order also states that an opinion will follow in due course.  As a result of the DC Circuit’s order, ISO-NE ran its Forward Capacity Auction on February 7, 2022 as scheduled but after “unwind[ing] the actions it had taken to terminate Killingly.” ISO-NE has stated that it will update the auction results if FERC confirms Killingly’s termination. 
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Grants Emergency Petition for Stay of FERC’s Order Terminating Killingly Energy Center’s ISO-NE Capacity Commitments

On January 20, 2022, FERC granted Adelphia Gateway, LLC’s (“Adelphia”) request for an 18-month extension of time, until June 20, 2023, to construct and place into service the proposed Adelphia Gateway Project. The order also announces FERC’s new policy on interventions in extension of time proceedings for pipeline projects. The new policy allows interventions in extension of time proceedings regardless of intervenor status in the underlying certificate docket, but untimely motions to intervene in the extension of time proceedings will still be reviewed under the FERC’s criteria for late-filed interventions. Commissioners James Danly and Mark C. Christie issued separate partial dissents arguing against the change in policy for interventions in extension of time proceedings.
Continue Reading FERC Announces New Policy on Interventions in Extension of Time Proceedings for Gas Pipeline Certificates

On December 17, 2021, FERC affirmed a Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) qualifying facility (“QF”) self-certification for the Shields Valley Solar Facility (“Shields Valley”), a hybrid solar and battery project relying on inverters to limit its net power production capacity.  In doing so, FERC reiterated its finding in its Broadview Solar rehearing order that a QF owner can use MW net output at the point of interconnection, taking into account inverter losses and other components to produce electricity, in determining whether a facility meets the 80 MW statutory maximum for QF status.  Commissioner James Danly wrote separately in dissent explaining his view that Shields Valley plainly exceeds the statutory capacity limit for a QF.
Continue Reading FERC Affirms QF Self-Certification for a Hybrid Solar and Battery Project, Prompting Dissent from Commissioner Danly

On November 26, 2021, FERC issued a notice stating that it would not review a Notice of Penalty filed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) against Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (“OVEC”). FERC’s November 26 notice effectively approves a $300,000 settlement between OVEC and the regional reliability entity, ReliabilityFirst Corporation (“RF”), for violations of NERC reliability standards FAC-003-4 R2 and FAC-003-4 R6, which address vegetation management. The settlement followed a 4.5-hour outage to one of OVEC’s 345 kV transmission lines in September 2018 that resulted when contact with a cedar tree growing in close proximity tripped the line out of service. OVEC neither admitted nor denied the violations, but agreed to the assessed $300,000 penalty.
Continue Reading FERC Approves $300,000 Settlement Between ReliabilityFirst and Ohio Valley Electric Corp. for Violations of NERC Reliability Standards

On November 16, 2021, staff from FERC, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), and certain Regional Reliability Entities issued a final report on the 2021 winter storms that severely impacted the bulk electric systems in Texas and the South Central United States. The report recommended, among other things, strengthening regulations and the grid for cold weather preparedness and enhancing coordination between natural gas and electric systems to prevent winter blackouts.
Continue Reading FERC and NERC Issued Final Report on the 2021 Winter Freeze

On October 21, 2021, FERC denied multiple complaints against Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Company, LP (“Panhandle”) regarding its refusal to waive all penalties associated with Operational Flow Orders (“OFO”) issued during the extreme Storm Uri weather event in February 2021. In doing so, FERC upheld penalties levied against Panhandle customers who argued they were forced to use the pipeline contrary to the OFO order to ensure reliable service for their own end-use customers.
Continue Reading FERC Rejects Attempts to Waive $75 Million in Pipeline Penalties During Storm Uri