On June 7, 2018, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing to review improving interagency coordination for the timely processing of environmental reviews and authorizations for non-Federal hydropower projects.  The hearing focused on delays in the licensing process and how interagency coordination can improve licensing reviews. Continue Reading House Subcommittee on Energy Holds Hearing on Hydropower Licensing

In a policy statement issued October 19, 2017, FERC revised its longstanding approach to setting the license terms for hydroelectric projects.  The new policy establishes a default term of 40 years for non-federal projects.  The default term can be shortened or extended in certain identified circumstances. Continue Reading FERC Issues Policy Statement Extending License Terms for Hydro Projects

On September 29, 2017, United States Department of Energy (“DOE”) Secretary Rick Perry took the unusual step of proposing a rule for final action by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”).  Secretary Perry’s initiative, a DOE-issued Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) under section 403 of the Department of Energy Organization Act (“DOE Act”) (42 U.S.C. § 7173), urges FERC to act extremely quickly to enact rules requiring regional transmission organizations and independent system operators (“RTOs/ISOs”) to provide just and reasonable rates for “fuel-secure” generation units (e.g., coal and nuclear units).  See Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule, Docket No. RM17-3-000, at 4–5 (Sept. 29, 2017) (“DOE NOPR”).  Continue Reading Department of Energy Proposes FERC-Authorized Full Cost Recovery for Certain Nuclear and Coal Power Generation

On November 17, 2016, FERC issued a final rule amending and clarifying its regulations to implement provisions of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (the “FAST Act”) regarding the designation, protection, and sharing of Critical Energy/Electric Infrastructure Information (“CEII”). In doing so, FERC established criteria and procedures for the designation of CEII, prohibited unauthorized disclosure of CEII, created sanctions for the unauthorized disclosure of CEII by FERC personnel, and permitted the voluntary sharing of CEII among appropriate entities. Continue Reading FERC Adopts FAST Act Provisions on Critical Infrastructure Information

On November 4, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (the “D.C. Circuit”) rejected Sierra Club’s arguments that FERC’s environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”) of Cheniere Energy Inc.’s (“Cheniere”) Corpus Christi, Texas liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) export project (the “Corpus Christi Project”) was inadequate. Notably, the D.C. Circuit held that FERC does not have to address the indirect environmental effects of anticipated exports of LNG in its NEPA review because the U.S. Department of Energy (the “DOE”) has sole authority to approve the export of natural gas. Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Denies Review, Upholds FERC Approval of Corpus Christi LNG Facility

Donald J. Trump (R) was elected 45th President of the United States yesterday, a development that will likely change the way energy companies interact with regulators and the federal government. Without addressing the political issues associated with the race itself, we provide the following initial thoughts on practical issues regarding FERC associated with a shift in political party control of the Executive Branch, an event that has not affected Washington, D.C. since late 2008/early 2009.

Specifically, FERC currently has three sitting Commissioners, all Democrats. Mr. Trump’s election will permit his administration to dramatically change the make-up of the Commission. He may be able to appoint as many as four new Commissioners in 2017, and will almost certainly appoint a new Chair upon his inauguration. Notably, given the timing of the confirmation process for new FERC Commissioners, the current sitting Commissioners could be in control of FERC through at least April of 2017 assuming none of them resign in the interim. We explain below how these FERC changes will happen and provide a general sense of the timeline for new Commissioners and new leadership to be installed. Continue Reading Special Update Regarding Presidential Election and Impact on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”)

On June 17, 2016, FERC declined to exercise primary jurisdiction over an interconnection dispute between Cottonwood Wind Project, LLC (“Cottonwood”) and Nebraska Public Power District (“NPPD”) because FERC determined that the controversy centered on the parties’ actions and that resolution of the case would only affect the parties to the specific agreement at issue. Specifically, FERC explained that the dispute over the interconnection agreement, which was based on FERC’s pro forma Large Generator Interconnection Agreement (“LGIA”), was a contractual dispute that failed to satisfy the factors set out in FERC’s “Arkla” test. As a result, FERC’s order dismissed the complaint brought by Cottonwood against the NPPD, which alleged that certain pre-construction authorizations were required under the parties’ LGIA. FERC’s refusal to assume jurisdiction over the dispute likely means a court will have to resolve the case. Continue Reading FERC Declines to Exercise Primary Jurisdiction Over Interconnection Dispute

On June 17, 2016, the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (“DCPSC”) denied multiple applications for reconsideration of its March 23, 2016 order approving the merger (“Merger Order”) between Pepco Holdings, Inc. (“Pepco”) and Exelon Corporation (“Exelon”) (see March 29, 2016, edition of the WER). The applications for reconsideration had been filed by several opponents of the merger. Going forward, those opponents must decide if they want to pursue a judicial appeal of the Merger Order.  Continue Reading DCPSC Rejects Requests to Reconsider Pepco-Exelon Merger Approval

On June 21, 2016, the U.S. District Court of Wyoming (“District Court”) rejected the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) regulations for hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. In doing so, the District Court held that (1) BLM’s originating land use, management, and planning statutes did not grant BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and (2) Congress’s exclusion of non-diesel hydraulic fracturing from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) underground injection control (“UIC”) programs means that no federal agency can regulate hydraulic fracturing. Continue Reading U.S. District Court of Wyoming Rejects BLM’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rules

On June 16, 2016, FERC amended its regulations to require that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) provide FERC Commissioners and staff with access, on a non-public and ongoing basis, to NERC’s Transmission Availability Data System (“TADS”), the Generating Availability Data System (“GADS”), and the protection system misoperations database. While FERC explained that such access would “provide the Commission with information necessary to determine the need for new or modified Reliability Standards and to better understand NERC’s periodic reliability and adequacy assessments,” it also added that “the Commission is not precluded from using the accessed data for other statutory purposes.” Continue Reading FERC Grants Itself Access to NERC Transmission and Generation Databases