On May 20, 2020, FERC issued a notice that it will convene a Commissioner-led technical conference on Wednesday and Thursday, July 8–9, 2020 from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time each day “to consider the ongoing, serious impacts that the emergency conditions caused by COVID-19 are having on various segments of the United States’ energy industry.” The notice stated that the technical conference will explore potential long-term impacts on FERC-regulated entities to ensure the continued efficient functioning of energy markets, electric transmission, transportation of natural gas and oil, and reliable operation of energy infrastructure, while also protecting consumers.
Continue Reading FERC to Convene Technical Conference on Impacts of COVID-19 on the Energy Industry

On May 21, 2020, FERC issued a proposed policy statement setting forth a revised approach to addressing requests for waiver, including: waiver of rates; non-rate terms and conditions; market rules; and procedural deadlines that are set forth in tariffs, rate schedules, service agreements, and contracts on file with FERC (“Proposed Policy Statement”). FERC specifically proposes to:

  1. discontinue granting retroactive waivers of tariff provisions, with a few specified exceptions; and
  2. grant requests for “remedial relief” only when applicants demonstrate that (a) such a request does not violate the filed rate doctrine or rule against retroactive ratemaking, or (b) the requested relief is within FERC’s remedial authority under section 309 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) or section 16 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”).


Continue Reading FERC Proposes and Seeks Comment on Changes to its Policies on Retroactive Waivers

On May 21, 2020, FERC issued Opinion No. 569-A, which revised the Commission’s methodology for determining whether an established rate of return on equity (“ROE”) is just and reasonable under section 206 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). Among other things, Opinion No. 569-A accepts the use of a third financial model for establishing just and reasonable ROE for Transmission Owners (“TOs”)—the “Risk Premium Model” (which was rejected in an earlier opinion)—in addition to the previously accepted two-step discount cash flow (“DCF”) model and capital asset pricing model (“CAPM”). Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in part, arguing that FERC was “once again changing course and revamping [its] ROE methodology” to the detriment of regulatory certainty among TOs and investors. In a related action, FERC contemporaneously issued a Policy Statement clarifying that the newly revised ROE methodology in Opinion No. 569-A applies to natural gas and oil pipelines, with certain exceptions.
Continue Reading FERC Revises Public Utility ROE Methodology; Sets Policy for Natural Gas, Oil Pipelines

On May 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) to update its National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) implementing regulations concerning applications to import to, or export from, liquid natural gas (“LNG”) terminals. In particular, DOE has previously determined that the transportation of natural gas by marine vessels normally does not pose the potential for significant environmental impacts, and accordingly, exports of LNG should be considered a “categorical exclusion” from NEPA review.  Comments are due June 1, 2020. 
Continue Reading DOE Proposes to Limit NEPA Review for LNG Export Applications

On April 30, 2020, FERC granted Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, L.L.C.’s (“Tennessee Gas”) petition for declaratory order that requested authorization to charge market-based rates for its proposed firm flexible storage (“FS Flex”) service. In reaching its decision, FERC reviewed whether Tennessee Gas held significant market power in the relevant product and geographic markets where the FS Flex service was to be offered, with the geographic market including east Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama (“Gulf Coast Production Area”). FERC found that Tennessee Gas’s small market share and market concentration in the relevant markets adequately demonstrated that Tennessee Gas lacked market power and that there were no other factors indicating that Tennessee Gas would be able to exercise market power when providing the FS Flex service.
Continue Reading FERC Grants Tennessee Gas Market-Based Rate Authority for Proposed FS Flex Service

On April 10, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) granted Gulf South Pipeline Company, LP’s (“Gulf South”) petition for review in part, finding that FERC’s rejection of Gulf South’s proposed “incremental plus rates” for the Westlake Expansion Project, an expansion within the Lake Charles Zone, was arbitrary and capricious. In doing so, the D.C. Circuit found that FERC could easily distinguish between which customers are using the new facilities and which customers were using the gas pipeline’s existing facilities. The D.C. Circuit denied Gulf South’s petition for review on issues related to FERC’s denial of Gulf South’s proposed initial rate of return and depreciation rate for the Project, upholding FERC’s use of Gulf South’s last approved rate of return and depreciation rate.
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Reverses FERC’s Rejection of “Incremental Plus” Rates for Gas Pipeline Expansion Project

On March 19, 2020, FERC authorized Jordan Cove Energy Project L.P.’s (“Jordan Cove”) Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) section 3 proposal to site, construct, and operate a liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) export terminal in Coos County, Oregon (“Terminal”) and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline, LP’s (“Pacific Connector”) application under section 7(c) of the NGA and Parts 157 and 284 of FERC’s regulations that would allow it to construct and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline system connected to the Terminal (“Pacific Connector Pipeline”). The decision prompted a dissent from Commissioner Richard Glick, who argued that the majority’s decision did not adequately consider the impacts that the Terminal and Pacific Connector Pipeline will have on climate change and other environmental concerns.
Continue Reading FERC Approves Jordan Cove LNG Export Project, Prompting Dissent From Commissioner Glick

On February 10, 2020, FERC filed its Rehearing En Banc Brief (“Brief”) regarding opposition to FERC’s authorization of the construction of Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC’s (“Transco”) proposed Atlantic Sunrise Project (“Project”)—an interstate pipeline designed to supply enough natural gas to meet the daily needs of more than 7 million American homes. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (“D.C. Circuit”) issued an opinion on August 2, 2019, upholding FERC’s decision to conditionally approve the Project. However, on September 16, 2019, Hilltop Hollow Limited Partnership, Hilltop Hollow Limited Partnership, LLC, and Stephen D. Hoffman (“Petitioners”) petitioned the court for rehearing of the court’s opinion en banc. The Petitioner’s main challenge was FERC’s usage of tolling orders, which allows FERC to delay rehearing after granting a pipeline certificate, as impermissible under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The court granted that petition and vacated the underlying judgment in a December 5, 2019 order (see December 11, 2019 WER).
Continue Reading FERC Defends Use of Tolling Orders Before the DC Circuit En Banc

On January 30, 2020, FERC granted in part and denied in part a declaratory order petition filed by PennEast Pipeline Company (“PennEast”) requesting that the Commission interpret the scope of a natural gas pipeline company’s eminent domain authority under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). FERC’s order follows a September 2019 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (“Third Circuit”), In re PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC (see September 18, 2019 edition of the WER). FERC’s January 30 declaratory order agreed with PennEast that Congress intended the NGA to be a vehicle for granting condemnation authority, and therefore intended to delegate the federal government’s own exemption from state sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to a natural gas company that holds a valid, FERC-issued Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (“CPCN”). However, FERC refrained from deciding whether that delegation of power is constitutional. The order was issued on a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Richard Glick dissenting on both procedural and substantive grounds.
Continue Reading FERC Concludes Natural Gas Act Delegates Authority to Pipelines to Condemn State Property

On January 10, 2020, FERC issued two separate orders approving Stipulation and Consent Agreements (“Agreements”) between the Office of Enforcement (“Enforcement”) and Emera Energy Incorporated (“Emera Energy”) and Exelon Generation Company, LLC (“Exelon”), respectively. Both Agreements relate to alleged violations of ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) Tariff. Specifically, with respect to Emera Energy, FERC alleged that Emera Energy violated the Tariff’s requirement that evidence supporting Fuel Price Adjustment Requests (“FPA Requests”) must reflect an arm’s length transaction. With respect to Exelon, FERC alleged that Exelon misreported the type and quantity of start-up fuel used by its Mystic 7 generating unit (“Mystic 7”). In both cases, FERC found that the Agreements were in the public interest and the Enforcement investigations were resolved on fair and equitable terms.

Continue Reading FERC Issues Two Orders Approving Civil Penalties and Disgorgement of Profits for Violations of ISO New England Inc.’s Tariff