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

On December 30, 2019, FERC accepted tariff revisions by the California Independent System Operator Corporation (“CAISO”) to apply three previously accepted-interim provisions designed to address the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility’s (“Aliso Canyon”) continued operational limitations and impacts on CAISO’s system.

Continue Reading FERC Accepts CAISO’s Tariff Revisions Addressing Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Constraints

On December 9, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to revisit the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit’s decision in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC, 913 F.3d 1099 (2019), allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand.  The key holding of the D.C. Circuit’s opinion, which concerned the ongoing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (“FERC”) relicensing of the Klamath Hydroelectric Project, is that the States of California and Oregon waived their authorities under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. § 1341, by failing to rule on the applicant’s submitted request for water quality certification within one year.  The D.C. Circuit held that the plain language of CWA section 401 establishes a maximum period of one year for states to act on a request for water quality certification.  Accordingly, the court further held that FERC erred in concluding that the “withdrawal-and-resubmittal” of the water quality certification application on an annual basis resets the one-year statutory time period for state action under section 401.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Declines to Hear Clean Water Act Section 401 Case

On December 5, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) granted a petition for rehearing en banc of an opinion it issued on August 2, 2019 (“August 2019 Opinion”) upholding FERC’s decision to conditionally approve the application of Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company (“Transco”) to construct and operate the Atlantic Sunrise Project.  Petitioners challenge FERC’s use of tolling orders, which allow FERC to delay rehearing after granting a pipeline certificate, as impermissible under the Natural Gas Act and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.  Specifically, Petitioners argue that FERC’s use of tolling orders in pipeline certificate proceedings unlawfully require challengers to wait for the rehearing order to issue before obtaining judicial review, while the pipeline can proceed with eminent domain proceedings and pipeline construction following the issuance of FERC’s certificate order.     
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit to Review FERC Tolling Orders En Banc

On November 8, 2019, Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the House  Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy (collectively the “Chairmen”), wrote a letter to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee expressing their concerns regarding FERC’s proposed changes to sections 201 and 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”).
Continue Reading House Energy and Commerce Chairs Pen Letter to FERC on Proposed PURPA Reform

On October 17, 2019, FERC amended its Policy Statement on Consultation with Indian Tribes in Commission Proceedings (“Policy Statement”) by adding a specific reference to treaty rights, noting that the Commission addresses input from tribes in its National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) documents, and adding consultation with Alaska Native Corporations to the Policy Statement.
Continue Reading FERC Revises Policy Statement on Tribal Consultation

On October 17, 2019, FERC issued its 2019-2020 Winter Energy Market Assessment (“Assessment”), which is a summary of staff’s expectations about market preparedness, including a high‐level assessment of the risks and challenges anticipated in the coming winter operating season. In its 2019-2020 Assessment, FERC highlighted that: 1) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) forecasts a warmer than average winter; 2) natural gas storage levels are expected to be average going into the winter; 3) natural gas futures prices are lower than last winter; 4) a diverse and changing generation resource mix will maintain electric reliability this winter; and 5) expected winter reserve margins exceed reference levels in all regions.

Continue Reading FERC Issues 2019-2020 Winter Energy Market Assessment

On September 18, 2019, the First Circuit Court of Appeals (“First Circuit”) affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts’s (“District Court”) ruling that dismissed twelve New England retail electricity customers’ (“Plaintiffs”) federal antitrust and state-law claims against Eversource Energy and Avangrid, Inc (“Defendants”).  Initially, Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in District Court, claiming Defendants violated section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2, as well as various state antitrust and consumer-protection laws (see December 12, 2017 edition of the WER).  The District Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims, finding that they were barred by the filed-rate doctrine and, alternatively, that the Plaintiffs lacked antitrust standing and failed to plausibly allege a monopolization claim under the Sherman Act.  On review, the First Circuit agreed with the District Court that the filed-rate doctrine barred Plaintiffs’ federal and state law claims.  Accordingly, the First Circuit found no need to reach the District Court’s alternative grounds for dismissal and dismissed Plaintiffs’ federal and state claims pursuant to the filed-rate doctrine.

Continue Reading Citing Filed-Rate Doctrine, First Circuit Affirms District Court’s Dismissal of Federal Antitrust and State Law Claims Against Eversource Energy and Avangrid, Inc.