On June 20, 2019, FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur announced on Twitter that she will be leaving FERC at the end of August after serving on the Commission for nine years.  She first announced her intent to leave the Commission in January of this year.  In her recent announcement, Commissioner LaFleur noted that the July open meeting will be her last meeting as a commissioner.  FERC currently has four members—Commissioners Neil Chatterjee and Bernard McNamee, who are Republicans, and Commissioners LaFleur and Richard Glick, who are Democrats.  Assuming no nominee is confirmed by the end of August, Commissioner LaFleur’s departure would leave FERC with a two to one Republican majority, and a minimum number of commissioners for a quorum.
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On June 7, 2019, Judge Dennis Montali of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of California San Francisco Division found that FERC’s finding that it had concurrent jurisdiction with the U.S. bankruptcy court over wholesale power agreements was “unenforceable in bankruptcy court and of no force on the parties before it.” Judge Montali further noted that if necessary, the U.S. bankruptcy court will “enjoin FERC from perpetuating its attempt to exercise power it wholly lacks.” At issue, on review by the bankruptcy court, was whether, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2201, the bankruptcy court has exclusive jurisdiction over Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s and Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation’s (collectively “Debtors”) right to reject a power purchase agreement (“PPA”) under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code, and whether FERC has concurrent jurisdiction to grant or deny PG&E’s rejection of any PPAs.

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On May 28, 2019, FERC issued an order approving Commonwealth Edison Company’s (“ComEd”) proposal to modify its formula transmission rate (“Formula Rate”) to recover its portion of the costs to construct, operate, and maintain the Superconductor Cable Development Project (the “Project”).  FERC also approved ComEd’s request for a transmission rate incentive to recover 100 percent of its prudently incurred costs if the Project is cancelled or abandoned for reasons outside ComEd’s control (“Abandonment Incentive”).  FERC found that the Project is properly treated as transmission plant, and thus eligible for recovery in ComEd’s Formula Rate and that the Commission’s approval of ComEd’s requested Abandonment Incentive is appropriate for the Project, which reflects an innovative use of an advanced technology that will improve system reliability.
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On May 15, 2019, with the support of various Democratic co-sponsors, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced the “Public Engagement at FERC Act” (S. 1477) to amend the Federal Power Act to establish an Office of Public Participation and Consumer Advocacy (“Office of PPCA” or “Office”).  The bill was first introduced by Senator Shaheen in 2017 and was created to assist residential and small commercial energy consumers in participating in FERC proceedings.
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On May 14, 2019, FERC granted in part, and denied in part, United Illuminating Company’s (“United Illuminating”) request for approval of three transmission rate incentives for investments in the Pequonnock Substation Project (“Project”).  United Illuminating asked FERC to approve three transmission incentives: (i) a 50-basis point return on equity (“ROE”), (ii) an Abandoned Plant Incentive, and (iii) a Construction Work in Progress (“CWIP”) Incentive.  United Illuminating also requested waivers of several of FERC’s regulatory requirements, including the requirements related to anti-competitive impacts of CWIP recovery and the requirement to file Statement BM under section 35.13(h)(38) of the Commission’s regulations.   In the May 14 Order, FERC granted United Illuminating’s requested Abandoned Plant and CWIP Incentives and its waiver requests, but denied the requested ROE Incentive adder.

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On May 9, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) dismissed Otsego 2000 Inc.’s (“Otsego”) petition to set aside a FERC order granting a certificate to Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. (“Dominion”) to construct and operate its New Market Project (“Project”).  Specifically, the D.C. Circuit found that Otsego failed to demonstrate standing to petition the court and that Otsego’s expenditure of resources for litigation was insufficient to demonstrate standing.
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As part of its overall proposal to implement carbon pricing to incorporate the social cost of carbon emissions in the wholesale power market, New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”) staff made a presentation at the Market Issues Working Group (“MIWG”) meeting on April 30, 2019 (“MIWG Presentation”).  The MIWG Presentation set forth NYISO’s proposed methodology to calculate the estimated impact of carbon pricing on locational-based marginal prices (“LBMP”).  Specifically, the MIWG Presentation provides additional details about how NYISO proposes to calculate the location-based marginal price-carbon (“LBMPc”), which would consider the impact of carbon pricing on LBMPs for purposes of subtracting from an energy supplier’s ultimate bid during the market settlement phase.

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On April 23, 2019, FERC denied Flint Riverkeeper’s and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s (“Riverkeepers”) request for attorney’s fees after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) vacated the certificates of public convenience and necessity (“CPCNs”) FERC issued for the Southeast Market Pipelines Project (see March 20, 2018 edition of the WER).  In doing so, FERC found, among other things, that the certificate proceeding at FERC did not qualify as an “adversary proceeding” under the Equal Access to Justice Act (“EAJA”) for which the Riverkeepers could seek attorney’s fees because: (1) certificate proceedings are excluded from the definition of “adversary proceeding” and (2) FERC is not represented by counsel in a certificate proceeding but rather acts as an adjudicator.
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On April 18, 2019, FERC partially granted a complaint American Wind Energy Association and the Wind Coalition filed against the Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”), alleging that the membership exit fee provisions, as applied to entities who are not transmission owners, violated the cost causation principle and resulted in unduly discriminatory rates (the “Complaint”).  FERC found that SPP’s membership exit fee is unjust and unreasonable because it creates a barrier to SPP membership for non-transmission owners and appears to be excessive. Accordingly, FERC directed SPP to eliminate the membership exit fee for non-transmission owners.

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On April 5, 2019, FERC accepted PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) proposed revisions to its Open Access Transmission Tariff (“Tariff”) regarding Incremental Capacity Transfer Rights (“ICTRs”).  ICTRs are created whenever customer-funded upgrades increase transmission import capability into a Locational Deliverability Area (“LDA”) in PJM’s system.  Specifically, PJM proposed: (1) to revise the procedures to determine ICTRs; (2) to limit customers to specifying no more than three LDAs in which to determine ICTRs; and (3) to allow customers to request PJM to determine ICTRs, rather than making such determination automatic.  In accepting PJM’s proposal, FERC determined that the requested revisions balanced customer needs with the efficient processing of PJM’s interconnection queue.

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