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 November 5, 2020, President Donald Trump designated sitting FERC Commissioner James Danly to assume the Chairmanship of the Commission. Chairman Danly joined FERC as general counsel in 2017, and served as a Commissioner from March through November 2020. Chairman Danly replaces Neil Chatterjee in the role, who will remain a Commissioner. Commissioner Chatterjee’s term expires June 30, 2021.
Continue Reading Danly Named FERC Chairman

On October 16, 2020, FERC issued a number of orders at its open meeting that addressed unrelated requests for retroactive waiver of various Regional Transmission Organization and utility tariff provisions. Commissioner James Danly issued a separate statement in each proceeding. Commissioner Danly dissented from many of the orders granting waiver and concurred in the result when the orders dismissed the requests for waiver or granted waiver in certain specific circumstances. In his dissent from an order granting Sunflower Electric Power Cooperative’s (“Sunflower’s”) petition for waiver of certain Southwest Power Pool, Inc. Tariff provisions, Commissioner Danly stated his belief that FERC has no legal discretion to grant retroactive waivers unless the waivers meet certain well-defined exceptions: first, if the parties had notice that tariff provision could be waived retroactively, or second, if the tariff provision is embodied in a private contract between parties who have agreed in the contract to make the rate effective prior to filing the contract with the Commission.
Continue Reading Commissioner Danly Objects to FERC’s Continued Practice of Granting Retroactive Waivers

On September 17, 2020, at FERC’s Virtual Open Meeting, FERC Staff presented an overview of changes to its rehearing practices following the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s (“D.C. Circuit”) recent decision in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC, 963 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2020) (en banc) (“Allegheny”), which rejected FERC’s practice of issuing “tolling orders” to grant itself more time to consider requests for rehearing (see July 1, 2020 issue of the WER). Staff explained that the changes to FERC’s rehearing practices are intended to allow appeals of FERC orders to proceed in a timely manner and on a complete administrative record. While the D.C. Circuit granted FERC’s motion to stay the court’s mandate in July (see July 29, 2020 edition of the WER), Staff explained in response to questions from FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee that Staff expects the D.C. Circuit to issue its mandate in early October.
Continue Reading FERC Staff Clarifies Changes to Rehearing Practices Following Allegheny Decision

On September 16, 2020, the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (“Committee”) held a hearing to consider Allison Clements’ and Mark C. Christies’ pending FERC nominations as FERC Commissioners. Ms. Clements is slated to join the Commission for a term expiring June 24, 2024, and Mr. Christie is set to join for a term expiring June 30, 2025.

Continue Reading Senate Committee Holds Hearing to Consider Pending FERC Nominations

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 27, 2020, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Mark Christie (Republican) and Allison Clements (Democrat) to fill the vacant Commissioner seats at FERC. Mr. Christie would replace the departing Commissioner Bernard McNamee—whose term expired on June 30, 2020 but who stayed at FERC past the expiration of his term to maintain a quorum (see January 28, 2020 edition of the WER)—while Ms. Clements would fill the remaining vacant seat. If both nominees are sworn in, the Commission would consist of three Republicans (Chairman Neil Chatterjee, Commissioner James Danly, and Mr. Christie) and two Democrats (Commission Richard Glick and Ms. Clements).
Continue Reading President Trump Nominates Mark Christie and Allison Clements as FERC Commissioners

On July 6, 2020, FERC moved for a ninety-day stay of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s (“D.C. Circuit’s”) mandate in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC. That decision upset FERC’s long-used practice of granting itself more time to consider requests for rehearing of its orders by issuing tolling orders (see July 1, 2020 issue of the WER). Although the decision was issued in the context of a pipeline proceeding under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”), FERC’s motion noted that the impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision extends to all requests for rehearing under the NGA, and presumably to those under the Federal Power Act as well. In support of its motion, FERC explained that over the past fifty years, tolling orders have been a critical tool to help manage its large case load and bring its expertise to bear on complex technical matters before they are presented to the courts of appeals. FERC stated that a stay of the court’s mandate would afford it time to consider how to revise its processes and allocate its resources in the absence of tolling orders. FERC also argued that a stay would give it and the Solicitor General additional time to consider whether to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, though it noted that the ultimate decision of whether to petition the Supreme Court lies with the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice.
Continue Reading FERC Moves to Stay DC Circuit’s Tolling Order Decision

On June 30, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”), sitting en banc, upset FERC’s long-used practice of granting itself more time to consider requests for rehearing of its orders by issuing “tolling orders.” FERC’s prior use of tolling orders prevented parties from seeking judicial review of a Commission order, but did not stay the effect of that order. The crux of the court’s decision is that the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) gives FERC four express options to address a request for rehearing, all of which must be taken within thirty days, but deciding only to grant itself more time is not one of those options. The decision marks a sea change in FERC procedure, and raises a host of questions for pending and future proceedings under both the NGA and its companion statute, the Federal Power Act (“FPA”).

On July 2, 2020, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioner Richard Glick issued a joint statement requesting that Congress pass legislation “providing FERC with a reasonable amount of additional time to act on rehearing requests involving orders under both the Natural Gas Act and the Federal Power Act.”  The statement goes on to say that “any such legislation should make clear that, while rehearing requests are pending, the Commission should be prohibited from issuing a notice to proceed with construction and no entity should be able to begin eminent domain proceedings involving the projects addressed in the orders subject to those rehearing requests.”


Continue Reading In Significant Order on FERC Procedure, En Banc D.C. Circuit Rejects FERC’s Use of Tolling Orders under the Natural Gas Act, Raising Significant Implementation Questions for All Pending and Future Proceedings