On August 27, 2019, FERC affirmed its earlier rejection of PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM’s”) proposal to, in certain circumstances, exempt incumbent transmission owners from executing a Designated Entity Agreement pursuant to the Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (“RTEP”) process set forth in Schedule 6 of its Operating Agreement, but not to exempt other transmission developers from this requirement (“August 27 Order”).  The August 27 Order on rehearing and compliance affirmed FERC’s conclusion in a July 2018 order that incumbent and non-incumbent transmission owners are similarly situated, and that incumbent transmission owners would be given a competitive advantage in PJM’s RTEP process if they were exempted from executing the Designated Entity Agreement.  The August 27 Order also accepted revisions to PJM’s Operating Agreement to provide a 60-day window for an incumbent transmission developer that PJM identified as a Designated Entity in its RTEP process to accept the designation.
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On July 18, 2019, FERC issued Order No. 861, modifying its regulations regarding the horizontal market power analysis required to obtain authorization to sell energy, capacity, or ancillary services at market-based rates.  FERC adopted its proposal (see December 20, 2018 edition of the WER) to relieve electric power sellers of the obligation to submit indicative screens to obtain or retain market-based rate authority in any Regional Transmission Organization (“RTO”)/Independent System Operator (“ISO”) market with FERC-approved RTO/ISO monitoring and mitigation.  Market-based rate sellers (“MBR Sellers”) must continue to submit indicative screens for authorization to make capacity sales in any RTO/ISO that lacks an RTO/ISO-administered capacity market subject to FERC-approved monitoring and mitigation—currently, the California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”) and Southwest Power Pool (“SPP”).  FERC stated its intent for the rule is to ease regulatory burdens on MBR Sellers while simultaneously preserving its authority to prevent the exercise of market power.
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On June 24, 2019, FERC issued an order rejecting, without prejudice, Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (“MISO”) and the MISO Transmission Owners’ (“MISO TOs”) proposal to allocate MISO’s share of the costs of certain interregional economic transmission projects with PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) and Southwest Power Pool, Inc. within the MISO footprint (“Interregional Cost Allocation Proposal”).  FERC explained that it rejected the Interregional Cost Allocation Proposal because it referenced and relied on certain provisions contained within a related, regional cost allocation proposal that FERC rejected as inconsistent with cost causation principles in a concurrently-issued order (see July 18, 2019 edition of the WER ).  The June 24 order also rejected MISO’s submission of the Interregional Cost Allocation Proposal in a compliance filing in a separate complaint proceeding.  FERC directed MISO to submit a new compliance filing either to confirm that an existing cost allocation method will apply to interregional projects, or to propose a new cost allocation method for these projects.
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On June 20, 2019, FERC approved revisions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) Tariff which permit MISO to share, without notice to its market participants, confidential information with federal cybersecurity authorities in response to detected cyber intrusions or weaknesses in electric utility infrastructure that have the potential to compromise reliability and call for immediate action.  FERC concluded that MISO’s proposal allows for greater information sharing with the appropriate federal agencies before a potential cybersecurity threat becomes an emergency, and appropriately maintains the confidentiality of the information at issue.
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On June 12, 2019, FERC issued an order on paper hearing (“June 12 Order”) finding that Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) quick-start pricing practices are unjust and unreasonable and directing SPP to revise its Open Access Transmission Tariff (“Tariff”) to: implement quick-start pricing provisions in order to more accurately reflect the marginal cost of serving load; provide clear and transparent price signals that better reflect investment decisions; minimize production costs; and reduce uplift. Quick-start resources (also referred to as “fast-start resources”) are able to start within ten minutes or less to meet transient or unforeseen system needs. Previously, energy supply from quick-start resources had not necessarily been included in SPP’s unified pricing and dispatch run, but after the June 12 Order, quick-start resources in SPP may participate in setting market-clearing energy prices under certain circumstances.
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On June 4, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) upheld FERC’s authorization for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (“Tennessee”) to build a new natural gas compressor station as part of its Broad Run Expansion Project (“the Project”).  Petitioners had argued, among other items, that FERC’s decision to approve the Project violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) by failing to address the reasonably foreseeable indirect environmental impacts resulting from: 1) increased gas production upstream of the Project, and 2) increased gas combustion downstream of the Project.  While the D.C. Circuit rejected the Petitioners’ arguments, it did so on jurisdictional grounds.  After concluding that FERC should have asked Tennessee for information about the upstream and downstream indirect environmental effects associated with the Project, the D.C. Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to conclude that FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously because Petitioners did not argue that FERC violated NEPA by failing to seek out this information.
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On May 16, 2019, FERC’s Offices of Electric Reliability and Enforcement issued the Summer 2019 Reliability and Energy Market Assessment (“2019 Summer Assessment”), a high-level summary of anticipated reliability challenges for the upcoming operating season and prospective assessment of electric and natural gas markets.  While higher than average temperatures are predicted for the West, South, and Eastern regions of the country this summer, the report concludes that reserve margins—a measure of the projected capability of anticipated resources to serve forecasted peak load—will be adequate in all regions except the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (“ERCOT”).  The 2019 Summer Assessment also predicts high hydroelectric power production in California, continued rapid growth in battery storage, wind, and solar capacity, as well as growth in demand for natural gas driven by new LNG export capacity.
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On May 16, 2019, FERC issued four orders on related complaints against the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) by Tilton Energy LLC (“Tilton”), American Municipal Power, Inc. (“AMP”), and Dynegy Marketing and Trade, LLC/Illinois Power Marketing Company (“Dynegy Companies” or “Dynegy”), as well as a complaint against PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) by AMP and the Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency (“NIMPA”).  The complaints alleged that MISO’s and PJM’s assessment of congestion and other costs for resources physically located in MISO but pseudo-tied into PJM violated MISO’s and PJM’s Tariffs by imposing duplicative charges.  The complaints also alleged that MISO and PJM subjected the complainants to unjust and unreasonable duplicative congestion charges.  FERC’s orders denied arguments that MISO’s and PJM’s assessment of congestion and other charges violated their respective Tariffs, but found that MISO and PJM may have assessed duplicative congestion charges prior to FERC’s acceptance of revisions to the MISO-PJM Joint Operating Agreement (“JOA”) to address such charges beginning in July 2018.  After consolidating the proceedings, FERC’s orders established hearing and settlement procedures to determine appropriate refunds.
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On May 1, 2019, FERC denied Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (“PG&E”) requests for rehearing of two prior orders in which FERC held that it and the bankruptcy courts have concurrent jurisdiction to review and address the disposition of wholesale power contracts sought to be rejected through bankruptcy.  FERC’s order comes as the PG&E bankruptcy proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California (“Bankruptcy Court”) remain ongoing.  The May 1 order affirmed FERC’s earlier conclusions in response to petitions from NextEra Energy, Inc./NextEra Energy Partners and Exelon Corporation that a party to a FERC-jurisdictional wholesale power contract must obtain approval from both the bankruptcy court and FERC to reject a contract and to modify the filed rate, respectively (see January 30, 2019 edition of the WER).  FERC clarified that rendering a determination on rejection motions was solely within the bankruptcy court’s province, but also made clear that rejection would not relieve PG&E of its separate regulatory obligations under the Federal Power Act.  The order may provide comfort to the Bankruptcy Court, which expressed concern over its exclusive authority to approve a rejection at an April 10 hearing.
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On April 18, 2019, FERC granted Sunrun, Inc.’s petition for declaratory order and request for waiver of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”) Qualified Facility (“QF”) certification requirements for certain of its residential solar photovoltaic (“PV”) systems.  Specifically, FERC granted Sunrun limited waivers of: (1) the QF certification requirement for Sunrun-financed residential rooftop solar PV systems under 20 kW where such systems, though separately interconnected, may aggregate to over 1 MW within a one-mile radius; and (2) the requirement in Item 8a of the QF self-certification Form No. 556 to identify related PV systems of 20 kW or less located within a one mile radius.  FERC’s order noted its intention to ease administrative burdens on both Sunrun and itself, and affirmed that certain certification filing exemptions available to QFs under 1 MW can persist as Sunrun expands and its financed PV systems aggregate to over 1 MW within a one-mile radius.
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