On January 15, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) in San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. FERC, No. 16-1433, denied San Diego Gas & Electric’s (“SDG&E”) petition for review of FERC orders declining retroactive application of its cancelled or abandoned electric transmission facilities incentive (“Abandonment Incentive”).  The D.C. Circuit’s decision denies SDG&E the eligibility to recover, in the case of abandonment, approximately $15 million in development costs associated with its South Orange County Reliability Enhancement Project (“SOCRE Project”).  The decision also prompted a dissent from Senior Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who argued that the underlying FERC orders were contrary to the plain language of the regulation at issue, as well as the Commission’s own precedent.
Continue Reading

On January 7, 2019, FERC Commissioner Bernard McNamee signaled in a letter to members of the United States Senate (“January 7 Letter”) that he would not recuse himself from FERC’s pending grid resiliency proceeding in Docket No. AD18-7 unless the FERC proceeding began to “closely resemble” a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) issued in September 2018 by the Department of Energy (“DOE”).  Commissioner McNamee helped draft the DOE NOPR, which also addressed grid resiliency issues and was rejected by FERC in Docket No. RM18-1 in January 2018 (see January 17, 2018 edition of the WER), when he was an attorney at the DOE.  The January 7 Letter responded to a December 12, 2018 request from a group of Senators, led by Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), that Commissioner McNamee provide an update on the guidance he received from FERC ethics officials regarding his recusal from specific proceedings.  According to that guidance, notwithstanding the similarities between Docket No. AD18-7 and the now-terminated Docket No. RM18-1 on the DOE NOPR, previous statements by Commissioner McNamee did not meet the legal standard for recusal, although the guidance urged “continued oversight to ensure that Docket No. AD18-7 does not develop in such a way as to replicate or closely resemble Docket No. RM18-1.”
Continue Reading

On December 6 and December 18, 2018, various environmental groups filed a motion and comments with FERC requesting that Commissioner Bernard McNamee recuse himself from FERC’s two ongoing grid resiliency proceedings.  The groups argued that because Commissioner McNamee represented the Department of Energy (“DOE”) when the agency proposed compensating “fuel-secure” units for their contribution to the resilience of the electrical grid, recusal is appropriate because he is already a party to the proceedings, and in any event, may have already “prejudged” central matters of law and fact relevant to those dockets.
Continue Reading

On December 20, 2018, FERC issued a series of nine orders addressing how certain public utilities calculate accumulated deferred income tax (“ADIT”) balances in their transmission formula rates.  The orders were the result of separate proceedings under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”), which FERC initiated after concluding in a June 21, 2018 order (“June Order”) that the use of its former “two-step” ADIT averaging methodology may be unjust and unreasonable.
Continue Reading

On December 7, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (“Sixth Circuit”) affirmed the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio’s (“District Court”) granting of a preliminary injunction to Nexus Gas Transmission, LLC (“Nexus”).  The preliminary injunction will allow Nexus to exercise the right of eminent domain under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) to build an interstate natural gas pipeline through parts of Ohio and Michigan.  The Sixth Circuit held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in balancing the preliminary injunction factors and in refusing to allow an evidentiary hearing on the issue.
Continue Reading

On December 3, 2018, FERC accepted ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) proposed temporary revisions to its Transmission, Markets and Services Tariff (“Tariff”) designed to address fuel security by a 2-1 vote.  Among other things, the order enables ISO-NE to enter into cost-of service agreements with certain retiring generators that are deemed necessary for regional fuel security and reliability.  Commissioner McIntyre did not participate and Commissioner Glick issued a separate concurring opinion.  Of particular note was the dissenting opinion filed by Chairman Neil Chatterjee.
Continue Reading

On May 24, 2018, FERC denied a complaint filed by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“NJBPU”) alleging unjust and unreasonable cost allocations for the Bergen-Linden Corridor transmission project (the “Project”) within the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) footprint.  FERC rejected NJBPU’s claims that, among other alleged problems, PJM’s implementation of certain provisions in its tariff and the Joint Operating Agreement (the “JOA”) with the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”) unfairly insulated New York ratepayers from costs associated with the Project, at the expense of New Jersey ratepayers and in violation of FERC’s Order No. 1000.  
Continue Reading

On May 17, 2018, FERC issued two orders denying requests for rehearing of two orders rejecting certain Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”) Open Access Transmission Tariff (“OATT”) proposals that, as FERC found, provided Auction Revenue Rights (“ARRs”) and Long-term Congestion Rights (“LTCRs”) on an unjust and unreasonable basis (“May 2018 Orders”).  FERC’s previous orders, both issued on October 19, 2017 (“October 2017 Orders”), found that SPP was impermissibly providing ARRs and LTCRs for network service subject to “redispatch” (or, curtailment), on the same basis as network service not subject to redispatch (see October 25, 2017 edition of the WER).  In these latest orders, FERC rejected claims that, among other things, the October 2017 Orders had violated the contract rights of eligible network customers and that they constituted unlawful retroactive agency action.
Continue Reading

On May 4, 2018, FERC issued an order approving a proposal by the Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”) to eliminate transmission revenue credits for certain non-capacity network upgrades and to exempt non-firm and short-term firm point-to-point transmission service requests from incurring payment obligations for otherwise creditable system upgrades.  Recognizing the flexibility afforded to Regional Transmission Organizations (“RTOs”) and Independent System Operators (“ISOs”) in the assignment of network upgrade costs, FERC rejected protests that SPP was not sufficiently recognizing the benefits of non-capacity upgrades.
Continue Reading

On May 1, 2018, FERC staff held a technical conference on local transmission planning within the California Independent System Operator Corporation (“CAISO”) footprint.  The conference comes at a time when two California utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”) and Southern California Edison Company (“SCE”), have transmission planning issues before the Commission, and also following FERC’s recent order addressing compliance with Order No. 890 in the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) region (see February 20, 2018 edition of the WER).
Continue Reading