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

On December 4, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) issued a final rule updating its National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) implementing regulations regarding applications to import to, or export from, liquid natural gas (“LNG”) terminals. The final rule follows DOE’s May 1, 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) (see May 22, 2020 edition of the WER). In the preamble to the final rule, DOE explained that the objective of the revision is to improve the efficiency of DOE’s decision-making process through saving time and expense associated with NEPA compliance and eliminating unnecessary environmental documentation.
Continue Reading DOE Updates NEPA Procedures on Authorizations Issued Under NGA

On October 28, 2020, FERC declined to abrogate or modify firm natural gas transportation service agreements (“Gulfport TSAs”) between Gulfport Energy Corporation (“Gulfport”) and Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (“Rockies Express”) in response to a Rockies Express petition anticipating a potential Gulfport bankruptcy filing. After an expedited paper hearing, FERC concluded that the public interest does not presently require any modification, and thus, that the Gulfport TSAs on file remain just and reasonable. In doing so, FERC found that Gulfport failed to provide the evidence needed under Mobile-Sierra for FERC to find that abrogation of the Gulfport TSAs would be in the public interest. FERC’s order also follows its recent determination that it shares concurrent jurisdiction with the Bankruptcy Court over abrogation or modification of gas transportation agreements (see July 1, 2020 edition of the WER).
Continue Reading FERC Finds Abrogation of Gas TSAs Would Not Be in the Public Interest Ahead of Possible Bankruptcy Proceeding

On October 6, 2020, the California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”), California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”), and the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) (collectively, “Joint Entities”) announced that their preliminary analysis pointed to a number of factors that caused two mid-August electricity outages in CAISO. Specifically, the group’s Preliminary Root Cause Analysis report (“Preliminary Analysis”) concluded that the outages resulted from a convergence of factors, including (i) the extreme west-wide heat storm, (ii) shortfall in system planning, and (iii) certain day-ahead energy market practices.  As directed by Governor Newsom, the Preliminary Analysis includes immediate, near, and longer-term actions that can be taken to minimize future power outages.

Continue Reading CAISO, CEC, and CPUC Conclude Several Factors Caused Mid-August Outages in California

On September 30, 2020, FERC held a technical conference focusing on how state-adopted carbon pricing intersects with a Regional Transmission Organization/Independent System Operator (“RTO/ISO”) administered market, and specifically what considerations a carbon-pricing framework may raise for FERC and/or the markets it oversees. The conference included three panels focused on: (i) the legal considerations associated with the integration of state carbon prices in FERC-regulated markets, including FERC’s statutory authority to implement carbon pricing in RTO/ISO markets and prior FERC precedent on RTO/ISO proposals to incorporate costs associated with state cap-and-trade programs, (ii) carbon pricing mechanisms, including current RTO/ISO initiatives to consider the integration of state carbon pricing actions and challenges for carbon pricing in multi-state RTO/ISO markets, and (iii) market design considerations, such as methods to reduce leakage and the potential operational impacts arising from carbon pricing. Finally, the technical conference concluded with a roundtable discussion reflecting on key issues and insights raised during the conference (see September 10, 2020 edition of the WER).
Continue Reading FERC Holds a Technical Conference on Carbon Pricing in Organized Markets

On September 9, 2020, FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) proposing updated regulations that will establish a one-year period for state agencies or other certifying authorities (“Certifying Agencies”) to act on requests for water quality certifications related to sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). Under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), should a Certifying Agency fail to act on such a request within one year, they are deemed to have waived the certification requirements.
Continue Reading FERC Proposes to Modify Water Quality Certification Waiver Period for Natural Gas Projects

On September 9, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (“First Circuit”) affirmed the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (“District Court”)  dismissal of a lawsuit alleging Eversource Energy and Avangrid (“Defendants”) manipulated Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (“Algonquin”) pipeline capacity and violated federal and state antitrust laws. The First Circuit followed its previous decision addressing a lawsuit challenging the same conduct by Defendants, but brought by different plaintiffs (see September 25, 2019 edition of the WER), which held that because the Defendants’ actions were permitted under a tariff filed with and accepted by FERC, the filed rate doctrine barred any attempt to challenge or change those rates or terms in federal court. Notably, the First Circuit also admonished FERC for being “slow to recognize market defects that create opportunities to exploit market power.”

Continue Reading First Circuit Affirms that Complaints About Gas Pipeline Capacity Hoarding in New England Are Barred by Filed Rate Doctrine, Criticizes FERC for not Policing Markets

On July 17, 2020, FERC issued three orders relating to the executed cost-of-service agreement (“Mystic Agreement”) among Constellation Mystic Power, LLC (“Mystic”), Exelon Generation Company, LLC (“Exelon”), and ISO New England Inc. (“ISO-NE”).  The Mystic Agreement provides for cost-of-service compensation to Mystic for the continued operation of two gas-fired generating units.  In the first two orders, FERC addressed requests for rehearing of its 2018 orders accepting the Mystic Agreement (the “July 2018 Order” and the “December 2018 Order”), including its conclusion that Mystic should recover from ratepayers 91% of the operating costs of the Everett Marine Terminal (“Everett”), a non-jurisdictional liquified natural gas import terminal.  In its third order, FERC accepted in part a Mystic compliance filing submitted in response to the December 2018 Order.  Commissioner Glick issued dissents to each of the July 17 orders.  Commissioner Glick concluded that FERC was forcing consumers to pay the full cost of service for Mystic in order to “bail out” Everett, and that each of the orders exceeded FERC’s jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”).

Continue Reading Divided FERC Permits Mystic to Recover Operating Costs of Non-Jurisdictional LNG Terminal