On August 30, FERC plans to hold a virtual workshop to discuss how members of the public (including customers and consumer advocates) can better participate in hydroelectric proceedings. The workshop is part of Commission’s increased focus on stakeholder engagement and environmental justice.

Continue Reading FERC Focuses on Public Participation in Hydroelectric Proceedings

As we previously reported, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which President Biden signed into law on November 15, 2021, included over $900 million in waterpower incentives for new and existing hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy. Specifically, the BIL provided additional funding for the existing incentive programs established by Sections 242 and 243 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) and created a new incentive program to maintain and enhance hydroelectricity through improvements to grid resiliency, dam safety, and the environment under Section 247 of EPAct 2005.

Continue Reading Department of Energy issues Request for Information on Hydropower Funding Provisions

On August 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overruled several orders by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and held that the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) did not waive its authority to issue water quality certifications for several hydroelectric projects. Before the court in SWRCB v. FERC, No. 20-72432, were several orders on appeal from FERC where the Commission found that SWRCB had participated in a coordinated “withdrawal-and-resubmission” scheme to evade the Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 one-year statutory time limit on a state’s review of a certification application.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Finds No Waiver of State Water Board Authority

Law360 announced today that Troutman Pepper’s Energy practice was selected as “Practice Group of the Year” for 2021.

With nearly 900 nominations submitted to Law360, we are honored to be nationally recognized for our accomplishments in the energy industry and beyond. Clients rely on our team to resolve critical matters as they arise—from FERC

On December 16, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) issued a final rule amending its regulations governing the dam safety of FERC-licensed hydroelectric projects under the Federal Power Act (FPA).  FERC’s final rule follows its July 16, 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) (see July 21, 2020 edition of the WER), which FERC issued following the 2017 spillway incident at the Oroville Dam and the May 2020 dam failures at the Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam in central Michigan.

The Commission explained that its final rule accomplished four objectives that are essential to improving its dam safety program under part 12 of its regulations.  First, it implements the two-tiered inspection program set forth in the NOPR, which will include a comprehensive assessment and a periodic inspection, each of which will be performed at a 10-year interval.  The comprehensive assessment will be more in-depth than the current part 12 inspections, will formally incorporate the existing Potential Failure Mode Analysis process, and will also require a semi-quantitative risk analysis.  The periodic inspection will be narrower in scope and primarily focused on performance of project works between comprehensive assessments.  This two-tier structure retains FERC’s current five-year interval between part 12 inspections at each Commission-licensed project and is consistent with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recommendation that “formal” inspections be conducted every five years.  FERC’s rule explained that this two-tier inspection scheme is similar to those used by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Continue Reading FERC Finalizes Revisions to Dam Safety Regulations

On July 6, 2020, FERC moved for a ninety-day stay of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s (“D.C. Circuit’s”) mandate in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC. That decision upset FERC’s long-used practice of granting itself more time to consider requests for rehearing of its orders by issuing tolling orders (see July 1, 2020 issue of the WER). Although the decision was issued in the context of a pipeline proceeding under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”), FERC’s motion noted that the impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision extends to all requests for rehearing under the NGA, and presumably to those under the Federal Power Act as well. In support of its motion, FERC explained that over the past fifty years, tolling orders have been a critical tool to help manage its large case load and bring its expertise to bear on complex technical matters before they are presented to the courts of appeals. FERC stated that a stay of the court’s mandate would afford it time to consider how to revise its processes and allocate its resources in the absence of tolling orders. FERC also argued that a stay would give it and the Solicitor General additional time to consider whether to petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, though it noted that the ultimate decision of whether to petition the Supreme Court lies with the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice.
Continue Reading FERC Moves to Stay DC Circuit’s Tolling Order Decision

On May 19, 2020 President Trump issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to “combat the economic consequences of COVID-19” by “rescinding, modifying, waiving, or providing exemptions from regulations and other requirements that may inhibit economic recovery.”
Continue Reading President Trump Issues Executive Order Directing Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery from COVID-19

Due to the unprecedented and rapidly changing landscape caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, FERC has provided multiple resources and notices over the last two weeks. Three of those relevant releases include an Epidemic/Pandemic Response Plan Resource, a policy statement providing guidance to oil pipelines impacted by the pandemic, and a notice that FERC is temporarily delaying the processing of all hardcopy submissions.
Continue Reading Update on FERC’s COVID-19 Response

On March 27, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) denied a petition for review filed by Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (“BG&E) arguing, among other things, that FERC’s application of its long-standing tax normalization policy to BG&E was arbitrary and capricious. The D.C. Circuit ultimately held that FERC reasonably explained its decision; however, the majority opinion also concluded that FERC cannot avoid its obligation to provide a reasoned explanation of contrary treatment of “similarly situated” parties merely because (i) prior orders were issued pursuant to delegated authority, or (ii) the prior orders were unopposed.   
Continue Reading Divided D.C. Circuit Weighs Precedential Value of FERC Staff Delegated Letter Orders in Rate Dispute

On March 27, 2020, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee and senior FERC staff members began periodic meetings with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”), the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the National Governors Association to coordinate efforts to help ensure the reliability of the nation’s energy transmission and distribution systems during the coronavirus pandemic. FERC and NARUC are currently urging all state authorities to designate utility workers as essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Continue Reading Update on FERC’s Response to COVID-19