On July 25, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (“Fourth Circuit”) affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia’s (“District Court”) opinion rejecting landowners’ constitutional challenge provisions of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) regarding the natural gas pipeline certificate process.  Specifically, the Fourth Circuit agreed that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to review the complaint, finding that Congress intended the complaint to be brought before FERC instead. Continue Reading Fourth Circuit Dismisses Constitutional Challenges to NGA Pipeline Certificate Process

On July 18, 2018, FERC issued Order No. 849, finalizing its procedures and regulations regarding the effect of reduced corporate income taxes on certain natural gas pipelines and their rates at FERC.  Notably, Order No. 849 requires interstate natural gas pipelines to submit “FERC Form No. 501-G,” an abbreviated cost and revenue study designed to illustrate the effect of reduced corporate tax rates, which FERC might then use to determine whether the pipeline’s rates may be unjust and unreasonable under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”).  Continue Reading FERC Finalizes Procedures for Evaluating Income Tax Cuts on Gas Pipeline Rates

On July 10, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) rejected the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s and its director Maya van Rossum’s (collectively, “Appellants”) claim that FERC is incentivized to approve new natural-gas pipeline certificates in order to secure itself future funding sources.  The D.C. Circuit also rejected Appellants’ challenge to FERC’s use of tolling orders to meet its statutory deadlines for taking action on rehearing applications. Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Rejects Challenges Alleging FERC Due Process Violations

On June 21, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (“Supreme Court”) held that the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) are “Officers of the United States” whose appointment must meet the requirements of the Constitution’s Appointments Clause.  Accordingly, pursuant to the Appointments Clause, the SEC ALJs must be appointed by the SEC itself, as the “Head of the Department.”  It is unclear whether this impacts any of the current ALJs at FERC.  Continue Reading Supreme Court Rules SEC ALJs Were Not Constitutionally Appointed

On June 21, 2018, FERC issued an order instituting several proceedings, pursuant to section 206 of the Federal Power Act, to examine the methodology utilized by certain public utilities for calculating Accumulated Deferred Income Tax (“ADIT”) balances in their projected test year and annual true-up calculations for their formula transmission rates. Continue Reading FERC to Review ADIT Methodology for Certain Public Utilities’ Formula Transmission Rates

On June 12, 2018, FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, through a concurrence in an order denying rehearing (“Rehearing Order”), announced that going forward she will try to consider and disclose the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas (“GHG”) impacts of proposed pipeline projects, even if such information is generic and ignored, as part of FERC’s public interest determination.  In the Rehearing Order, Commissioner LaFleur calculated her own estimation of the total downstream GHG emissions as part of her environmental review in the proceeding, even though the majority did not. Continue Reading Commissioner LaFleur Calculates Downstream GHG Impacts of Pipeline Project in Concurrence

On June 8, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) upheld FERC’s re-examination of an order regarding the effective rate for network upgrades in an Interconnection Agreement (“IA”) with the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”).  A power developer, West Deptford Energy, LLC (“West Deptford”), requested interconnection with PJM.  After the negotiations for the IA commenced, PJM’s effective rate changed, triggering a dispute between the parties as to the appropriate effective rate for the IA: the rate in effect at the start of negotiations or the rate in effect at the time the IA was completed. The D.C. Circuit agreed with FERC’s finding that the governing rate is the rate in effect at the time the IA was completed. Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Upholds FERC’s Decision Regarding the Timing of the Application of an Effective Rate

On May 24, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Inspector General (“IG”) released an audit report of FERC’s natural gas pipeline certificate process, concluding that DOE “did not find any concerns that called into question the appropriateness of decisions FERC made on natural gas certification applications.”  The audit, which was conducted between October 2015 to May 2018, asked whether FERC’s certification process conformed to relevant laws, regulations, policies, and procedures, including timeliness and stakeholder input.  While DOE’s IG concluded that FERC generally performed the certification process in accordance with such laws and procedures, DOE’s IG also identified certain areas as needing improvement, including process transparency, public access to FERC records, tracking stakeholder comments, and data integrity. Continue Reading DOE Inspector Identifies Areas of Improvement in FERC Certificate Procedures

On May 29, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and FERC argued in a joint brief (“Joint Brief”) filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (“Seventh Circuit”) that Illinois’ plan to provide credits to nuclear power plants does not interfere with FERC’s authority over wholesale electricity markets.  DOJ and FERC filed the Joint Brief in response to the Seventh Circuit’s request asking the agencies for their views on whether the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) preempts Illinois’ zero emission credits program (“Illinois ZEC Program”). Continue Reading FERC/DOJ Argue that Federal Power Act Does Not Preempt Illinois’ Zero Emission Credits Program