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 29, 2020, in response to a request for rehearing, FERC issued an order modifying the discussion in, while sustaining the result of, a prior order finding that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) was not in compliance with three of the five criteria of Order No. 1000’s immediate need reliability project exemption (“Immediate Need Exemption”). Concurrently, in a separate order, FERC modified, while sustaining the result of, an order where it found that ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) implementation of the Immediate Need Exemption was not unjust, unreasonable, or unduly discriminatory or preferential.
Continue Reading FERC Sustains PJM and ISO-NE Immediate Need Reliability Project Exemption Orders

On September 17, 2020, FERC issued a final rule (“Order No. 2222”) amending its regulations to require Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (“RTO/ISO”) to revise their tariffs to facilitate the participation of distributed energy resource (“DER”) aggregations in organized wholesale electric markets. In the order, FERC found current RTO/ISO DER aggregation market rules to be unjust and unreasonable, established new definitions for DERs and DER aggregations, and detailed RTO/ISO tariff revisions that will allow DER aggregations to participate in RTO/ISO markets. Commissioner Danly dissented from the order, contending that FERC was overextending its jurisdictional authority and that, through the order, FERC was imprudently encouraging “resource development by fiat.” RTO/ISOs are required to file the tariff changes needed to comply with Order No. 2222 within two hundred seventy (270) days of publication of the order in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading FERC Opens Door for Participation of Distributed Energy Resource Aggregations in Wholesale Electric Markets

On September 9, 2020, FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) proposing updated regulations that will establish a one-year period for state agencies or other certifying authorities (“Certifying Agencies”) to act on requests for water quality certifications related to sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). Under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), should a Certifying Agency fail to act on such a request within one year, they are deemed to have waived the certification requirements.
Continue Reading FERC Proposes to Modify Water Quality Certification Waiver Period for Natural Gas Projects

On July 17, 2020, FERC issued three orders relating to the executed cost-of-service agreement (“Mystic Agreement”) among Constellation Mystic Power, LLC (“Mystic”), Exelon Generation Company, LLC (“Exelon”), and ISO New England Inc. (“ISO-NE”).  The Mystic Agreement provides for cost-of-service compensation to Mystic for the continued operation of two gas-fired generating units.  In the first two orders, FERC addressed requests for rehearing of its 2018 orders accepting the Mystic Agreement (the “July 2018 Order” and the “December 2018 Order”), including its conclusion that Mystic should recover from ratepayers 91% of the operating costs of the Everett Marine Terminal (“Everett”), a non-jurisdictional liquified natural gas import terminal.  In its third order, FERC accepted in part a Mystic compliance filing submitted in response to the December 2018 Order.  Commissioner Glick issued dissents to each of the July 17 orders.  Commissioner Glick concluded that FERC was forcing consumers to pay the full cost of service for Mystic in order to “bail out” Everett, and that each of the orders exceeded FERC’s jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”).
Continue Reading Divided FERC Permits Mystic to Recover Operating Costs of Non-Jurisdictional LNG Terminal

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

On July 8, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) issued a request for information (“RFI”) seeking public input on the energy industry’s current risk mitigation practices with regard to the bulk-power system supply chain. The DOE issued the RFI pursuant to Executive Order No. 13920 (“Executive Order”), wherein the Secretary of Energy was directed, among other things, to investigate the bulk power system for equipment presenting a risk from foreign adversaries (see May 5, 2020 edition of the WER). In the RFI, DOE asks stakeholders to identify potential vulnerabilities in the bulk-power system supply chain that could have national security implications and the estimated economic costs of implementing the Executive Order.
Continue Reading DOE Requests Information on Bulk Power System Vulnerabilities Pursuant to Executive Order

On June 18, 2020, FERC issued an order finding that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) has been inconsistently implementing Order No. 1000’s immediate need reliability project exemption and directed PJM to implement certain aspects of the exemption more fully and transparently. Concurrently, in separate orders, FERC concluded there was insufficient evidence to find that either Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) or ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) implementation of the immediate need reliability project exemption was unjust, unreasonable, or unduly discriminatory or preferential.
Continue Reading FERC Finds PJM Not In Compliance With Order No. 1000 Immediate Need Reliability Project Exemption

On June 4, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to take all reasonable measures to speed infrastructure investments and requiring the heads of all federal agencies to identify projects that can be exempted from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), or the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), pursuant to the emergency procedures within each act, among other requirements.
Continue Reading President Trump Issues Executive Order Directing the Expedition of NEPA Reviews

On May 29, 2020, FERC accepted the California Independent System Operator Corporation’s (“CAISO”) proposed update to its capacity procurement mechanism (“CPM”) compensation for offers above the soft offer cap, where a participating resource will be compensated at the resource’s going-forward fixed costs plus a 20 percent adder. The new CPM compensation formula will go into effect June 1, 2020. Commissioner Richard Glick dissented, stating that while he agreed that CPM compensation should be determined by a resource’s going-forward fixed costs, CAISO had failed to show that the 20 percent adder was just and reasonable.
Continue Reading CAISO Updates Capacity Procurement Mechanism Compensation for Offers Above the Soft Cap