On September 30, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in Save the Colorado, et al. v. Spellmon. The case arose from various conservation group challenges to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) decision to grant the city and county of Denver, acting through its Board of Water Commissioners (Denver Water or municipality), a discharge permit to expand the reservoir of its Gross Reservoir Hydroelectric Project, which is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission). The central issue revolved around whether the U.S. courts of appeals have exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to non-FERC decisions arising under statutes related to the development of hydropower projects under the Federal Power Act (FPA). The Tenth Circuit ultimately held that petitions against orders by non-FERC agencies do not warrant exclusive jurisdiction in the U.S. courts of appeals.

Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Resolves Jurisdictional Dispute, Finds FPA Jurisdictional Limit Does Not Apply to Non-FERC Agency Orders

On September 9, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would distribute $13.5 million to incentivize hydroelectric generation in the United States. The financial support is part of the Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program, which provides funding for electricity generated and sold from dams and other water infrastructure projects that will add to or expand hydropower generation.

Continue Reading DOE Announces $13.5M Distribution to Hydroelectric Facilities Through the Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program

On September 21, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released the text of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 (Act). This comprehensive Act was set to be included in the upcoming Continuing Resolution; however, on September 27, Manchin pulled the Act from the Continuing Resolution given bipartisan opposition. The Act sought to improve energy production in the United States by accelerating agency review of certain energy projects and modernizing permitting laws.

Continue Reading Senator Manchin’s Permitting Reform Bill Pulled From the Continuing Resolution

On September 22, 2022, FERC denied a complaint filed on October 14, 2020 by Cricket Valley Energy Center LLC and Empire Generating Company, LLC. Complainants alleged that the New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“NYISO’s”) capacity market offer floor rules—termed buyer-side market power mitigation rules (“BSM Rules”)—were unjust and unduly discriminatory because they failed to address price suppression in NYISO’s installed capacity (“ICAP”) spot market auctions. Complainants requested that FERC require NYISO to implement a minimum offer price rule (“MOPR”) that applies to all new and existing resources that receive out-of-market subsidies, with few or no exceptions. In denying the complaint, FERC relied on a May 2022 order accepting changes to NYISO’s BSM Rules to automatically exclude wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, fuel cells that do not use fossil fuel, and demand response resources from adhering to an offer floor when bidding into NYISO’s capacity market. Commissioner James Danly issued a dissenting statement and Commissioner Mark Christie issued a concurring statement.

Continue Reading FERC Denies Complaint Requesting Broadly-Applicable MOPR in NYISO

On September 16, 2022, a panel of three judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued a decision in United Power, Inc. v. FERC affirming FERC’s exclusive jurisdiction over exit fees charged by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. (“Tri-State”), a Colorado generation and transmission cooperative.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Holds that FERC Has Exclusive Jurisdiction Over Exit Fees Charged by a Colorado Electric Cooperative

Introduction

On September 22, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish rules providing incentive-based rate treatment for utilities making certain voluntary cybersecurity investments (“Cybersecurity NOPR” or “NOPR”).[1] According to FERC, the Cybersecurity NOPR seeks to benefit consumers and national security by encouraging investments in advanced cybersecurity technology and participation by utilities in cybersecurity threat information sharing programs, as directed by Congress in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (“Infrastructure and Jobs Act” or “Act”).[2] While the Cybersecurity NOPR supersedes FERC’s December 2020 cybersecurity NOPR (whose docket is being terminated), the instant Cybersecurity NOPR generally retains the incentive provisions outlined in the December 2020 NOPR. Under the Cybersecurity NOPR, FERC proposes that:

Continue Reading FERC Proposes to Offer Rate Incentives for Voluntary Cybersecurity Investment

On August 30, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order in NextEra Energy Capital Holdings, Inc. v. Lake, a case raising dormant Commerce Clause challenges to a 2019 Texas law that bans new entrants from building transmission lines that are part of a multistate electricity grid.  The majority reversed the lower court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of NextEra’s petition, thereby allowing the case to proceed to trial in district court. Continue Reading 5th Circuit Holds that Texas Law Permitting Blocking of Competitive Transmission Owners from Building New Lines Violates the Commerce Clause

On August 26, 2022, Commissioner James Danly issued a statement in the FERC docket addressing PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) replacement, focused Minimum Offer Price Rule (“Focused MOPR”). Commissioner Danly argued that the FERC Solicitor’s Office should not have filed its brief defending the Focused MOPR in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (“Third Circuit”), and that doing so violated the Department of Energy Organization Act (“DOE Organization Act”) and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). Following the statement, on September 7, 2022, certain Petitioners in the Third Circuit appeal proceedings filed a motion to strike FERC’s brief. Their motion argues that FERC’s brief should not have been filed because the Commission never voted to accept the Focused MOPR, and that filing the brief violates both the DOE Organization Act and constitutional limitations on the authority of executive officials. The Third Circuit has not yet acted on the motion. Continue Reading Commissioner Danly Issues Statement Objecting to FERC Brief Defending MOPR in Third Circuit Appeal Proceedings; Third Circuit Petitioners Move to Strike FERC’s Brief

On August 19, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) denied a Petition for Review from LS Power and two other organizations (“Petitioners”) challenging FERC’s rejection of an earlier-submitted complaint against the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) method of allocating costs for certain transmission construction projects identified as Baseline Reliability Projects in MISO’s transmission planning process. As the D.C. Circuit determined, FERC’s rejection of the Petitioners’ complaint was not arbitrary and capricious, as the Petitioners had failed to demonstrate that MISO’s cost-allocation method was unjust and unreasonable.

Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Transmission Developer Challenge to MISO Baseline Reliability Project Cost Allocation

On August 31, 2022, FERC issued two orders regarding two proposals to revise the Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (“MISO”) resource adequacy requirements. In the first order, FERC accepted MISO’s proposal to move to seasonal resource adequacy requirements rather than a single requirement based on the summer peak. MISO proposed this seasonal resource adequacy construct to address significant increases in emergency events that occur year-round, driven by factors including generation retirements, reliance on intermittent resources, outages resulting from extreme weather events, and declining excess reserve margin. MISO will implement the new seasonal resource adequacy construct in the next Planning Resource Auction (“Auction”) to be held in April 2023. In the second order, FERC rejected MISO’s proposal to require a Minimum Capacity Obligation for participants in MISO’s Auction (“MCO Proposal”). Continue Reading FERC Approves MISO Seasonal Resource Adequacy Requirements but Rejects Minimum Capacity Obligation