On February 21, 2019, FERC took “a new approach” to its approval of pending FERC-jurisdictional liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) projects by calculating the direct greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from the operation of the project facilities and comparing those emissions to the national level.  FERC’s approach was a step toward ultimately approving a proposed LNG project that was previously pulled from FERC’s December 2018 open meeting.  Notwithstanding FERC’s approval, Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur reiterated her concern that while FERC’s disclosure of national comparison data is only the first step, “the Commission has not identified a framework for making a significance determination” based on GHG emissions.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Richard Glick dissented, arguing that FERC’s GHG analysis fails to meet the requirements of both the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) and the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), both of which require that FERC consider climate change implications in some manner.  Separately, FERC approved two smaller gas pipeline projects, with Commissioner LaFleur issuing separate concurrences, and Commissioner Glick issuing separate dissents, in each.    Continue Reading FERC’s New Approach to Measuring National GHG Emissions Leads to LNG Facility Approval

On February 19, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued an unpublished opinion in Appalachian Voices v. FERC, No. 17-1271, denying petitions for review filed by Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Sierra Club, among others (“Petitioners”), that challenged FERC’s issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity (“certificate”) for the 300-mile natural gas Mountain Valley Pipeline extending from Wetzel County, West Virginia to Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The D.C. Circuit’s order rejected all sixteen of the Petitioners’ challenges to FERC’s approval of the certificate, and notably concluded that: (1) market need for the project was demonstrated by long-term precedent agreements, even though the agreements were with affiliates, and (2) FERC’s estimate of emissions resulting from the end-use combustion of natural gas and explanation why the Social Cost of Carbon is not an appropriate measure of project-level climate change impacts were all that was required by the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Denies Petitions for Review of FERC’s Mountain Valley Pipeline Approval

On January 29, 2019, over 180 environmental organizations (“Environmental Groups”) wrote a letter to members of Congress requesting a congressional hearing into the approval process for interstate gas pipelines.  The Environmental Groups argue that FERC approves nearly all proposed pipelines, abuses its eminent domain authority, and relies on erroneous data when evaluating whether to allow pipeline companies to begin construction. Continue Reading Environmental Groups Request Congressional Hearing on FERC Approval of Interstate Gas Pipelines

On January 23 and 24, 2019, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced $78 million in federal funding to improve existing coal-fired power plants and for grid modernization.  Both funding programs come from DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy. Continue Reading DOE Announces New Funding for Improvements to Existing Coal-Fired Power Plants and Grid Modernization

On January 16, 2019, FERC launched investigations and initiated hearings pursuant to Natural Gas Act (“NGA”) section 5 into three natural gas pipeline companies in response to their Form No. 501-G filings to explore whether they have been over-recovering their costs of service.  Separately, FERC also found that nine other gas companies sufficiently complied with FERC’s directives in Order No. 849 and terminated their Form No. 501-G proceedings without taking any further action. Continue Reading FERC Initiates NGA Section 5 Investigations into Three Gas Pipelines’ Rates, Terminates Nine Other Proceedings in Response to Form 501-G Filings

On December 20, 2018, FERC proposed to revise the horizontal market power analysis required for electric power sellers seeking to obtain or retain market-based rate authority in certain organized wholesale power markets (“NOPR”).  Specifically, FERC proposed to relieve electric power sellers of the obligation to submit indicative screens when seeking 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, thus easing the regulatory burden for certain market-based rate sellers.  However, FERC proposed to continue to require market-based rate sellers in an RTO/ISO to submit indicative screens for authorization to make capacity sales at market-based rates in any RTO/ISO market that lacks an RTO/ISO-administered capacity market subject to FERC-approved RTO/ISO monitoring and mitigation. Continue Reading FERC Proposes to Ease Regulatory Burden for Certain Market-Based Rate Sellers

On December 11, 2018, FERC approved the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) proposed tariff revisions to remove the service territory of Entergy New Orleans, LLC (“Entergy New Orleans”) from Cost Allocation Zone 9 to its own new Cost Allocation Zone 12 (“Proposal”).  FERC found that the Proposal was just and reasonable because it would result in an allocation of costs that is at least roughly commensurate with MISO’s Transmission Expansion Plan (“MTEP”) economic project benefits. Continue Reading MISO to Establish New Rate Zone for Entergy New Orleans

On December 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Department of the Army (together, “Agencies”) released their much-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Proposed Rule”), which if adopted would scale back the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) by narrowing the definition of “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) to include only those waters that are oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands, and their “naturally occurring surface water channels.”  The practical implications of the Proposed Rule for hydropower project owners and energy project developers are that ephemeral streams and many ponds and ditches used in agricultural, industrial, and construction activities would no longer be within the jurisdictional reach of the CWA, alleviating the requirement for and uncertainty surrounding permitting requirements and related mitigation measures. Continue Reading Trump Administration Releases “WOTUS” Rule Proposal

On December 3, 2018, FERC largely rejected a complaint filed by Monterey MA, LLC (“Monterey”) alleging that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) improperly adjusted prices after two transmission line outage events for unauthorized reasons, and without proper notice and documentation in violation of PJM’s Tariff.  Monterey requested that FERC reinstate original prices and that changes be made to the Tariff relating to price revisions so that re-pricing events are more transparent for market participants.  FERC mostly found that Monterey’s allegations were unreasonable and thus largely denied Monterey’s complaint, including Monterrey’s request to reinstate the original market prices. Continue Reading FERC Largely Rejects Complaint Alleging PJM Improperly Adjusted Market Prices After Transmission Outages

On November 19, 2018, FERC accepted ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) request to terminate the capacity supply obligation (“CSO”) of the Clear River Unit 1 natural gas-fired generator (“Clear River”) for the 2021–2022 Capacity Commitment Period. In doing so, FERC found that ISO-NE had the right under its Tariff to terminate Clear River’s CSO because Clear River’s project sponsor, Invenergy Energy Management LLC (“Invenergy”), had covered Clear River’s CSO for two consecutive Capacity Commitment Periods. In the same order, FERC denied Invenergy’s request for waiver of certain provisions of ISO-NE’s Tariff related to the termination of Clear River’s CSO. Continue Reading FERC Accepts ISO New England’s Termination of Planned Generator’s Capacity Supply Obligation