On December 6, 2019, a bipartisan group of ten U.S. Senators wrote to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee asking for assurances that FERC fully appreciates the threat posed to the nation’s energy infrastructure by the use of equipment manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (“Huawei”).  The letter praised FERC’s creation of a new cybersecurity division and expressed hope that the new division’s first objective would be defending the nation’s infrastructure against threats posed by the use of Huawei’s equipment.
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On December 5, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) granted a petition for rehearing en banc of an opinion it issued on August 2, 2019 (“August 2019 Opinion”) upholding FERC’s decision to conditionally approve the application of Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company (“Transco”) to construct and operate the Atlantic Sunrise Project.  Petitioners challenge FERC’s use of tolling orders, which allow FERC to delay rehearing after granting a pipeline certificate, as impermissible under the Natural Gas Act and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.  Specifically, Petitioners argue that FERC’s use of tolling orders in pipeline certificate proceedings unlawfully require challengers to wait for the rehearing order to issue before obtaining judicial review, while the pipeline can proceed with eminent domain proceedings and pipeline construction following the issuance of FERC’s certificate order.     
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On November 21, 2019, FERC announced that public utilities with transmission formula rates must revise those rates to account for changes in accumulated deferred income taxes (“ADIT”) resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“TCJA”). Utilities with transmission formula rates under an Open Access Transmission Tariff, a transmission owner tariff, or a rate schedule must:

  • include a mechanism to deduct any excess ADIT from, or add any deficient ADIT to, their rate base in order to ensure rate base neutrality (the “Rate Base Adjustment Mechanism”);
  • return to, or recover from, customers any excess or deficient ADIT through an adjustment to the formula rate’s income tax allowance (“Income Tax Allowance Adjustment Mechanism”); and
  • incorporate a new permanent worksheet into the formula rate to annually track ADIT amounts.

FERC declined to adopt any compliance requirements for transmission stated rates, finding that the utility’s next rate case would be the most appropriate place to address excess or deficient ADIT resulting from the TCJA. Compliance filings are due the later of: (1) 30 days from the effective date of the final rule; or (2) the utility’s next informational filing following the final rule. 
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On November 5 and 6, 2019, FERC staff held a two-day workshop at its headquarters in Washington, DC on technologies that increase the capacity, efficiency, or reliability of transmission facilities.  Panelists and FERC staff discussed technologies that are currently used in transmission planning and operations, challenges associated with the deployment of grid-enhancing technologies, and regulatory actions that might promote increased adoption of these technologies going forward. A formal notice requesting written comments will soon be issued. 
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On October 30, 2019, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce held a hearing in furtherance of its development of comprehensive climate legislation focused on reaching a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050.  John Bear, the Chief Executive Officer of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) testified at the hearing while Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”) and PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) provided input in response to an earlier request from the Committee. The three Regional Transmission Organizations (“RTOs”) generally reported increases in both renewable and distributed generation in their regions over the past several years, highlighting the operational and reliability challenges that can come along with the growing prevalence of both. The RTOs also recognized the widely divergent state decarbonization policies and the associated impacts to the regional wholesale markets.
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On October 23, 2019, FERC issued twin orders denying rehearing of the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) Phase 1 and Phase 2 Revisions, which sought to resolve overlapping congestion charges on pseudo-tied generation in Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) and PJM. American Municipal Power (“AMP”) requested rehearing, arguing that FERC engaged in impermissible piecemeal ratemaking, failed to evaluate the ultimate end result of the revisions, and did not fully address overlapping congestion charges. FERC rejected AMP’s arguments, confirming that it fully considered the proposed revisions and found them just and reasonable.
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On October 17, 2019, FERC denied rehearing of its order denying a complaint filed by CXA La Paloma, LLC (“La Paloma”), which argued that the California Independent System Operator Corporation’s (“CAISO”) resource adequacy regime had become unjust and unreasonable. Stakeholders asserted, among other things, that FERC ignored certain evidence suggesting inadequate capacity prices would lead to near-term reliability problems; FERC disagreed, restating the evidence and arguments initially presented in the complaint, and explaining that based on the evidence presented it did not find CAISO’s resource adequacy regime unjust and unreasonable. In its order denying rehearing, FERC weighed in (again) on low capacity prices and reliability concerns in California, as well as the scope of its section 206 authority.     
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On October 2, 2019, revisions to the Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”) Membership Agreement went into effect without an order, as FERC lacked a quorum to rule on SPP’s proposal due to Commissioner Richard Glick’s ongoing recusal in certain proceedings at FERC (see October 3, 2019 edition of the WER). SPP’s filing on August 2, 2019 proposed new definitions for the terms Load Serving Entity (“LSE”) and non-LSE to its Membership Agreement. A joint statement from Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Bernard McNamee indicated that they would have accepted the revisions as requested.   

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On September 27, 2019, FERC approved CAISO tariff revisions to its voluntary Capacity Procurement Mechanism (“CPM”) and mandatory Reliability-Must-Run (“RMR”) framework such that all backstop procurement from resources that would otherwise retire or mothball will be addressed through CAISO’s RMR provisions. While FERC has traditionally considered RMR contracts as measures of last resort, FERC found it just and reasonable for CAISO to expand its use of such contracts to address evolving operational needs due, in part, to the increased penetration of variable energy resources in California. Commissioner Glick partially dissented, arguing that the approved tariff changes essentially provide CAISO “unchecked authority” to enter into out-of-market contracts to meet its resource adequacy needs.
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On September 16, 2019, FERC accepted revisions to the PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) tariff that: (1) establish a process by which existing capacity sellers can request removal of their capacity resource’s status; and (2) revise the process for must-offer exceptions due to an existing seller’s physical inability to meet its capacity requirements. The changes clarify how existing capacity resources may, under certain circumstances, effectively elect to “opt out” of PJM’s annual capacity auctions (termed Based Residual Auctions, or “BRAs”).
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