On May 20, 2021, FERC issued two orders in which it authorized two pipeline companies to construct and abandon certain pipeline facilities, subject to conditions. In an exciting and sometimes tense Commission open-meeting, the Commission ultimately approved Northern Natural Gas Company’s (“Northern”) application to construct and operate certain pipeline compression and auxiliary facilities and abandon short segments of existing pipeline (“2021 Expansion Project”) in Minnesota.

Continue Reading FERC Approves Pipeline Certificates with Last Minute Amendment Caveating GHG NEPA Analysis as “Information Only”

On May 19, 2021, FERC issued an order dismissing requests for rehearing of an order directing briefing (“Briefing Order”) about the operation of Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s  Atlantic Bridge project after finding that requesting parties were not “aggrieved” under court precedent interpreting Section 19(a) of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”).  Commissioner James Danly wrote separately in dissent explaining his view that FERC’s request for briefing means that the determinations made in the Atlantic Bridge certificate order are no longer settled and that the certificate order is in fact no longer final.  
Continue Reading FERC Maintains Order Directing Briefing Long After Authorizing Gas Facilities to Begin Operations, Prompting Dissent from Commissioner Danly

On May 4, 2021, FERC issued Order No. 871-B, clarifying that the rule established in Order No. 871, which precludes FERC from authorizing natural gas pipeline companies to proceed with construction of approved pipeline projects, only applies until the earlier of either (a) the date that a qualifying rehearing request is no longer pending before FERC or (b) 90 days following the date that a qualifying request for rehearing may be deemed denied by operation of law. FERC also limited the application of this rule to requests for rehearing that raise issues reflecting opposition to project construction, operation, or need. Finally, FERC announced a general policy to stay Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) section 7 certificate orders during the rehearing period and pending resolution of any timely requests for rehearing. Commissioner James Danly dissented, arguing that the need for Order No. 871 is obviated by further developments on appeal of FERC’s practice of indefinite tolling orders before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) and that presumptively staying pipeline project construction is contrary to the NGA and is “bad policy.” Commissioner Mark Christie concurred with Order No. 871-B.

Continue Reading FERC Revises Policy on Authorizing Pipelines to Commence Construction Pending Requests for Rehearing of Certificate Orders

On March 24, 2021, FERC modified a December 17, 2020 order (“December Order”) while reaching the same overall result, allowing construction to recommence for a portion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (“Mountain Valley”) project located near Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. FERC determined that the Environmental Conditions in Mountain Valley’s certificate order did not preclude FERC from permitting Mountain Valley to resume construction on portions of its pipeline, even though certain federal authorizations that were vacated on appeal are still pending, and also reaffirmed that completing the construction would be preferable to temporary mitigation efforts. Chairman Richard Glick and Commissioner Allison Clements dissented, arguing that FERC cannot authorize Mountain Valley to resume construction while federal authorizations remain outstanding.
Continue Reading Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction to Resume over Opposition from Chairman Glick and Commissioner Clements

On March 23, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the “Second Circuit” or the “Court”) agreed with FERC’s determination that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) had waived its certification authority under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) by failing to act within the one-year statutory deadline. Notably, the Second Circuit held that a state agency cannot revise a certification request date by written agreement with the applicant, thereby altering the one-year statutory deadline for state action. Denying the petitions for rehearing by DEC and the Sierra Club, the Court applied the same reasoning it applied in New York State Dep’t of Env’t Conservation v. FERC (“New York I”), 884 F.3d 450, 455-56 (2d Cir. 2018) (see March 20, 2018 edition of the WER) where the Second Circuit determined that DEC could not unilaterally alter the application date based on when it considered an application complete “because that approach would allow a state agency not only to dictate when the review process can begin but also to delay it indefinitely.” There, to avoid such a subjective standard, the Second Circuit established a bright line rule that the beginning of the review is determined by the date “of receipt of such request.”

Continue Reading Second Circuit Sides with FERC – States May Not Agree to Revise the Certification Request Date to Avoid Waiver of its Certification Authority Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act

On March 18, 2021, FERC issued a Final Rule amending its regulations to establish a one-year period for states, tribes, or other certifying authorities (“Certifying Agencies”) to act on a Clean Water Act (“CWA”) Section 401 water quality certification request for proposed natural gas and liquefied natural gas projects.
Continue Reading FERC Establishes Water Quality Certification Waiver Period for Natural Gas Projects

On March 22, 2021, FERC, for the first time, assessed the significance of a proposed natural gas pipeline project’s greenhouse gas emissions (“GHGs”) and their contribution to climate change when it approved Northern Natural Gas Company’s (“Northern”) South Sioux City to Sioux Falls A-line Replacement project (“Project”). As proposed, Northern will abandon in-place certain pipeline facilities in Nebraska and South Dakota, construct and operate approximately 87.3 miles of replacement pipeline, and modify existing and install new above-ground facilities. While all five FERC Commissioners agreed to approve the Project, both Commissioner Danly and Commissioner Christie dissented from FERC’s decision to determine the significance of GHGs in an individual pipeline proceeding.

Continue Reading FERC Changes Course, Considers Pipeline’s GHGs Significance and Climate Impacts

On February 18, 2021, FERC took action in a multi-year dispute over the PJM Interconnection’s capacity market pricing rule known as the Minimum Offer Price Rule (or, “MOPR”) by vacating a single troublesome footnote from its last order, making way for PJM to move ahead with its annual capacity auction after years of delay. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will soon take up a host of appeals of FERC’s decisions on the controversial MOPR.
Continue Reading In PJM MOPR Proceeding, FERC Vacates Footnote Prompting Danly Dissent

On January 20, 2021, President Joseph Biden issued Executive Order No. 13990 (“Executive Order”), which, among other things, suspended Executive Order 13920, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System” (“Executive Order 13920”) until April 20, 2021 and directed all executive departments and agencies to review and take action to address all actions taken during former-President Donald Trump’s tenure in office that conflict with President Biden’s stated goals of improving public health, environmental protection, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, bolstering resilience to the impacts of climate change, and confronting the climate crisis.
Continue Reading President Biden Suspends Bulk Power System Executive Order; Directs Agencies to Address Public Health- and Climate-Related Rules

On December 21, 2020, FERC modified its previous cost-of-service compensation decisions allowing Constellation Mystic Power, LLC (“Mystic”) to continue operating two gas-fired generation facilities (“Mystic 8 and 9”) fueled exclusively by an affiliate, Everett Marine Terminal (“Everett”), which, like Mystic, is owned by Exelon Generation Company, LLC (“Exelon”). Commissioner Richard Glick dissented, reiterating his belief that FERC has exceeded its jurisdiction to “bail out” the liquified natural gas (“LNG”) import terminal.
Continue Reading FERC Alters Mystic’s Cost-of-Service Agreement; Commissioner Glick Dissents Again