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.
Continue Reading

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.
Continue Reading

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.
Continue Reading

On April 18, 2019, FERC found that the fast-start pricing practices of New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”) and PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) were unjust and unreasonable and directed NYISO and PJM to revise their tariffs to implement certain changes discussed in the orders (“2019 Orders”).  In doing so, FERC found that NYISO’s and PJM’s current fast-start tariff provisions do not allow prices to reflect the marginal cost of serving load.
Continue Reading

On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued an unpublished opinion dismissing challenges to three FERC orders that granted certificates of public convenience and necessity to Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (“Transco”) for three interstate pipeline projects: the Virginia Southside Expansion Project, the Dalton Expansion Project, and the Atlantic Sunrise Project (see previous reports on challenges to the Atlantic Sunrise Project in the December 12, 2017 edition of the WER and the September 12, 2018 edition of the WER).  The D.C. Circuit found that the North Carolina Utilities Commission (“NCUC”) and the New York State Public Service Commission (“NYSPSC”) lacked standing to challenge FERC’s orders because they did not show a “substantial probability” that gas transported by the Atlantic Sunrise Project would flow to their states, and did not provide any evidence of injury resulting from the Dalton Expansion and Virginia Southside Expansion Projects.
Continue Reading

On April 2, 2019, FERC affirmed its decision that the New York Department of Environmental Conversation (“NY DEC”) waived its authority to issue or deny a Clean Water Act (“CWA”) section 401 water quality permit application filed by National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation and Empire Pipeline, Inc. (collectively, “National Fuel”) by failing to act on the application within one year of receipt.  Specifically, FERC held that an agreement between NY DEC and National Fuel to alter the receipt date of the application did not extend the CWA’s statutory one-year deadline for NY DEC to act on the application.
Continue Reading

On March 19, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (“First Circuit”) found that FERC’s issuance of a certificate of public convenience and necessity (“CPCN”) authorizing Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC’s (“Algonquin”) compressor station construction in the Town of Weymouth, Massachusetts (“Weymouth”) preempted Weymouth’s later denial of a Wetland Protection Ordinance (“WPO” or “Ordinance”) permit that ultimately prohibited Algonquin from constructing a compressor station in Weymouth.  Notably, the First Circuit found that Weymouth’s WPO permit denial was preempted, in part, because FERC considered essentially the same environmental factors Weymouth relied on to deny the WPO permit.
Continue Reading

On March 19, 2019, FERC conditionally accepted the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) proposed tariff revisions to: (1) clarify how market participants with pseudo-ties outside of MISO can use virtual transactions to align Financial Transmission Rights (“FTRs”) and transmission usage charges; and (2) reduce the administrative charges assessed to market participants with a pseudo-tie of generation or load out of MISO.
Continue Reading

On March 11, 2019, a U.S. district court judge in California denied FERC’s motion to withdraw the reference of Pacific Gas and Electric’s (“PG&E”) adversary proceeding from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the ongoing jurisdictional dispute between FERC and the bankruptcy court.  In his ruling, Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that removal of the case from the bankruptcy courts was neither required nor permitted because the plain language of the Bankruptcy Code is sufficient to address the questions raised in the proceeding.
Continue Reading

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