On August 27, 2019, FERC staff and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) staff (collectively, “Staff”) jointly issued a white paper on Notices of Penalty (“NOP”) for violating Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standards, which details requirements for Bulk Power System cyber security.  Staff elected to draft the white paper in response to the increase in Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests for the disclosure of non-public information in CIP NOPs, such as the identity of the CIP violator.  The overarching objective of the proposal is to provide increased transparency, while protecting sensitive security information that could jeopardize the Bulk Power System if made public.  If approved, the proposal will not have a retroactive effect on pending matters, or CIP NOPs already filed with the Commission.

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On June 20, 2019, FERC approved revisions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) Tariff which permit MISO to share, without notice to its market participants, confidential information with federal cybersecurity authorities in response to detected cyber intrusions or weaknesses in electric utility infrastructure that have the potential to compromise reliability and call for immediate action.  FERC concluded that MISO’s proposal allows for greater information sharing with the appropriate federal agencies before a potential cybersecurity threat becomes an emergency, and appropriately maintains the confidentiality of the information at issue.
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On May 16, 2019, FERC’s Offices of Electric Reliability and Enforcement issued the Summer 2019 Reliability and Energy Market Assessment (“2019 Summer Assessment”), a high-level summary of anticipated reliability challenges for the upcoming operating season and prospective assessment of electric and natural gas markets.  While higher than average temperatures are predicted for the West, South, and Eastern regions of the country this summer, the report concludes that reserve margins—a measure of the projected capability of anticipated resources to serve forecasted peak load—will be adequate in all regions except the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (“ERCOT”).  The 2019 Summer Assessment also predicts high hydroelectric power production in California, continued rapid growth in battery storage, wind, and solar capacity, as well as growth in demand for natural gas driven by new LNG export capacity.
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On May 21, 2019, FERC announced that it will convene a staff-led public meeting on July 15, 2019 to discuss ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) development of tariff revisions addressing the regional fuel security concerns discussed by FERC in a July 2, 2018 order.  Commissioners from FERC are invited to attend and participate in the meeting, along with their staffs.
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On April 17, 2019, FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) in which it proposed to approve, pending certain modifications, Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standard CIP-012-1 (“Proposed Reliability Standard”), as submitted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”).  The Proposed Reliability Standard is designed to mitigate cybersecurity risks associated with communications between bulk electric system control centers.  While FERC found that the Proposed Reliability Standard largely met FERC’s directive set forth in Order No. 822, FERC stated that the Proposed Reliability Standard did not address all of its concerns, and thus proposed to direct NERC to modify the Proposed Reliability Standard.
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On March 29, 2019, FERC released its 2018 staff report on Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) reliability audits (“2018 CIP Report”).  The 2018 CIP Report summarizes new and previously-identified “lessons learned” from CIP audits conducted for fiscal years 2016 through 2018.  The audits evaluated whether certain users, owners, and operators of the Bulk Electric System (“BES”) – generally referred to as “registered entities” – had been complying with the FERC-approved CIP Reliability Standards during the relevant fiscal years.  FERC staff found that the audited registered entities met most of the mandatory requirements of the CIP Reliability Standards, but that there were some potential compliance infractions.  In addition, the staff summarized certain other existing practices that could improve BES security, but are not necessarily required by the CIP Reliability Standards and so therefore were only noted as recommendations in the 2018 CIP Report.
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On January 7, 2019, FERC Commissioner Bernard McNamee signaled in a letter to members of the United States Senate (“January 7 Letter”) that he would not recuse himself from FERC’s pending grid resiliency proceeding in Docket No. AD18-7 unless the FERC proceeding began to “closely resemble” a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) issued in September 2018 by the Department of Energy (“DOE”).  Commissioner McNamee helped draft the DOE NOPR, which also addressed grid resiliency issues and was rejected by FERC in Docket No. RM18-1 in January 2018 (see January 17, 2018 edition of the WER), when he was an attorney at the DOE.  The January 7 Letter responded to a December 12, 2018 request from a group of Senators, led by Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), that Commissioner McNamee provide an update on the guidance he received from FERC ethics officials regarding his recusal from specific proceedings.  According to that guidance, notwithstanding the similarities between Docket No. AD18-7 and the now-terminated Docket No. RM18-1 on the DOE NOPR, previous statements by Commissioner McNamee did not meet the legal standard for recusal, although the guidance urged “continued oversight to ensure that Docket No. AD18-7 does not develop in such a way as to replicate or closely resemble Docket No. RM18-1.”
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On December 6 and December 18, 2018, various environmental groups filed a motion and comments with FERC requesting that Commissioner Bernard McNamee recuse himself from FERC’s two ongoing grid resiliency proceedings.  The groups argued that because Commissioner McNamee represented the Department of Energy (“DOE”) when the agency proposed compensating “fuel-secure” units for their contribution to the resilience of the electrical grid, recusal is appropriate because he is already a party to the proceedings, and in any event, may have already “prejudged” central matters of law and fact relevant to those dockets.
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On December 3, 2018, FERC accepted ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) proposed temporary revisions to its Transmission, Markets and Services Tariff (“Tariff”) designed to address fuel security by a 2-1 vote.  Among other things, the order enables ISO-NE to enter into cost-of service agreements with certain retiring generators that are deemed necessary for regional fuel security and reliability.  Commissioner McIntyre did not participate and Commissioner Glick issued a separate concurring opinion.  Of particular note was the dissenting opinion filed by Chairman Neil Chatterjee.
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