A group of 17 states, through their Attorneys General (“State AGs”), filed a motion (“Motion”) on May 10, 2023, requesting that the Commission audit and investigate whether BlackRock is acting as an “activist” investor, thereby violating Section 203 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and the Commission’s latest reauthorizations for BlackRock to acquire public utility securities. The Motion comes shortly after Commissioners Danly and Christie issued a joint statement regarding a different investment company, Vanguard Group, Inc. (“Vanguard”), questioning whether Vanguard’s “enormous accumulation” of utility assets may enable it to exercise “profound control” over those utilities.Continue Reading State Attorneys General Argue BlackRock is Violating its FERC Blanket Authorization

On May 16, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued an opinion in Center for Biological Diversity v. Alaska Gasline Development Corporation, affirming FERC’s authorization for Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (“AGDC”) to construct and operate liquified natural gas (“LNG”) facilities in Alaska’s North Slope region (“Project”).Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Upholds FERC’s NEPA Review of Alaskan LNG Project

On May 3, 2023, a divided FERC voted 3-1 to deny a widely-supported complaint by multiple utilities in the Southwest Power Pool (“SPP”) region arguing that the absence of the new 15% generation Planning Reserve Margin (“Reserve Margin”) from the SPP tariff rendered that tariff unjust and unreasonable.  The Reserve Margin dictates exactly how much electric generating capacity load-serving utilities must own or have under contract to serve customers.  The complaining utilities argued that customers in SPP could be harmed by the costs associated with the rapid increase in the Reserve Margin with little corresponding reliability benefit and asked FERC to keep closer tabs on the process.  The utilities’ request for additional FERC oversight was opposed only by SPP itself.  As a result of the decision, SPP is free to change the Reserve Margin without any oversight by FERC or approval by a single state commission.   FERC further held that a complaint alleging that a key rate is missing from a tariff in violation of section 205 of the Federal Power Act and the Commission’s Rule of Reason fails to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Continue Reading Divided FERC Announces Hands-Off Approach to Capacity Issues in SPP, Raises Questions About Tariff Detail Complaints

On May 4, 2023, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hosted all four FERC Commissioners for an oversight hearing to focus on reliability in the face of (1) cyber-attacks, (2) coal and natural gas plant retirements, (3) severe weather, and (4) subsidies, climate policies, and market signals that encourage more intermittent resources to come online.Continue Reading FERC Commissioners Answer to Senate Committee on Fleet Transformation and Other Pressing Issues

On April 21, 2023, the President Biden issued an “Executive Order on Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All.” The new Executive Order provides that “each [federal] agency should make achieving environmental justice part of its mission.” To that end, it provides that agencies shall:Continue Reading Biden Issues Executive Order Increasing Agency Requirements on Environmental Justice

On remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”), FERC reaffirmed that Rio Grande LNG, LLC’s proposed liquified natural gas (“LNG”) terminal project (“Rio Grande LNG Terminal”) was not inconsistent with the public interest, and that the Rio Bravo Pipeline Company, LLC’s proposed pipeline project (“Rio Bravo Pipeline Project”), as amended, was required by the public convenience and necessity. In doing so, FERC addressed a variety of highly-contested issues, including whether it must apply the social cost of carbon and expand its prior environmental justice analysis. Chairman Phillips concurred, and Commissioner Clements dissented from FERC’s decision.Continue Reading FERC Addresses Social Cost of Carbon and Environmental Justice Analysis on Remand

On April 19, 2023, FERC announced it would hold a forum to discuss the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) capacity market. The Commissioner-led forum is scheduled for Thursday, June 15, 2023. There will be three panels to discuss the current state of the PJM capacity market, potential improvements, and related proposals to address resource adequacy.Continue Reading FERC to Convene Forum on PJM Capacity Market

On March 16, 2023, FERC granted a petition declaring that, should it issue orders pursuant to Sections 210 and 211 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”), which would be required for a prospective project to interconnect Puerto Rico’s transmission system to the U.S. mainland bulk electric system, such orders would “not render Puerto Rico’s electric utilities ‘public utilities’ under section 201(e) of the FPA. However, FERC reserved the right to make a fact-specific determination at the time any application for such interconnection is sought and further affirmed that, regardless of “public utility” status, FERC would retain jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s electric utilities pursuant to sections 210, 211, 211A, 212, and 215 of the FPA.Continue Reading FERC Confirms that Orders Under Sections 210 and 211 of the Federal Power Act Would Not Generally Confer “Public Utility” Jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s Electric Utilities

On March 16, 2023, FERC found that Commonwealth Edison Company’s (“ComEd”) formula rate protocols under the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) Open Access Transmission Tariff (“OATT”) appear to be unjust and unreasonable and therefore directed ComEd to show cause as to why its formula rate protocols are just and reasonable or explain what changes to its formula rate protocols would remedy FERC’s concerns relating to the scope of participation, transparency, and challenge procedures.Continue Reading FERC Institutes Show Cause Proceeding on ComEd’s Formula Rate Protocols

On March 16, 2023, FERC approved a new cybersecurity reliability standard, CIP-003-9 (along with associated violation risk factors and violation security levels), proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”).  CIP-003-9 focuses on supply chain risk management for low impact Bulk Electric System (“BES”) Cyber Systems and requires: (1) responsible entities to include the topic of “vendor electronic remote access security controls” in their cyber security policies; (2) entities with low impact BES facilities to have methods for identifying and disabling vendor remote access; and (3) entities with low impact BES facilities to have methods for detecting malicious communications for vendor remote access.  The new standard aims to prevent compromises to cyber systems in the event of a known or suspected malicious communication and will become effective 36 months after FERC’s approval.Continue Reading FERC Approves Extending Risk Management Practices to Low-Impact Cyber Systems