In 2019, the D.C. Circuit in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC  held that the plain language of Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 establishes a bright-line maximum period of one year for States to act on a request for water quality certification and that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) was arbitrary and capricious when it failed to enforce the statutory time-limit.  Since the Hoopa Valley Tribe ruling, the Commission has repeatedly held that a State waives its authority under Section 401 when it has sought to extend the one year review period by requesting or directing the applicant to withdraw and resubmit its application to afford the state reviewing agency more time.  In several recent cases, however, the Commission has found that there may be instances where a withdrawal and resubmission of a water quality certification by the applicant does not result in a State’s waiver of Section 401 certification authority.
Continue Reading FERC’s Clean Water Action Section 401 Waiver Analysis Continues to Evolve

On August 18, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission  (FERC) issued an order clarifying its filing requirements in the event its e-filing system malfunctions.

By way of background, in August 2019, FERC issued Order No. 862, which revised its procedural regulations to require that any documents delivered to the Commission by any means other than the United States Postal Service be sent to an off-site screening facility instead of to Commission headquarters on First Street in Washington D.C.  (See September 17, 2019 edition of the WER).  Order No. 862 was designed to enhance security for the Commission and its staff and was determined by the Commission not to impact the public’s ability to make timely filings, since the off-site screening facility would log, stamp, and record deliveries just as staff would do at the headquarters location.  In the order, FERC continued to strongly encourage use of e-filing.  Order No. 862 was originally slated to become effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, but the effective date was ultimately delayed until July 1, 2020 (see November 19, 2019 and July 2, 2020 editions of the WER).
Continue Reading FERC Clarifies Policy for Ensuring Timely Filing in the Event of E-Filing Malfunction

On January 4, 2021, Mark C. Christie was sworn in as FERC’s newest Commissioner. The Senate previously confirmed the nomination of Commissioner Christie, along with the nomination of now-current-Commissioner Allison Clements, in a late night voice vote on November 30, 2020 (see December 8, 2020 edition of the WER). With the swearing in of Commissioner Christie, FERC now has a full five-member Commission with three Republicans (Chairman Danly and Commissioners Chatterjee and Christie) and two Democrats (Commissioners Clements and Glick).
Continue Reading Mark C. Christie Sworn in as FERC Commissioner

On November 30, 2020, in a late night voice vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominations of Mark Christie and Allison Clements as FERC Commissioners. Once they are sworn in as Commissioners, the bipartisan pairing will fill the remaining two seats on the five-member Commission, with Christie occupying the seat last held by former Commissioner Bernard McNamee for a term ending on June 30, 2025 and Clements occupying the seat last held by Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur for a term ending on June 30, 2024.
Continue Reading Senate Confirms Christie and Clements to Fill Remaining Commission Seats

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