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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On October 18, 2018, in Order No. 850, the Commission approved new Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standards submitted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) in response to the Commission’s directive in Order No. 829.  The new CIP Reliability Standards require responsible entities to take additional actions to address cybersecurity risks associated with the supply chain for Bulk Electric System (“BES”) Cyber Systems.  FERC directed NERC to submit modifications to the new CIP Reliability Standards within 24 months of the effective date of its order, which is 60 days after the order’s publication in the Federal Register.
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On September 12, 2018, FERC announced the initiation of a joint inquiry with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) into a cold weather event that occurred in the Midwest and part of the South Central U.S. mid-January of this year.  Specifically, on January 17, 2018, regional operators in the midwest and south central United States issued emergency appeals for electricity conservation after an atypical forecast in electricity demand due to unusually cold temperatures.  As a result, there were reports of multiple forced generation outages, voltage deviations, and near-overloads during peak operations.
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On July 13, 2018, pursuant to section 205 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”), FERC accepted and set for hearing a cost-of-service agreement between Constellation Mystic Power, LLC (“Mystic”), Exelon Generation Company, LLC (“Exelon”), and ISO New England Inc. (“ISO-NE”) providing cost-of-service compensation to Mystic for continued operation of two gas-fired generating units (“Mystic 8 and 9”) to ensure fuel security in New England.  Commissioners Powelson and Glick dissented.
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On July 2, 2018, FERC denied ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) request for waiver of its Transmission, Markets, and Services Tariff (“Tariff”) and instituted a Federal Power Act (“FPA”) section 206 proceeding because, according to FERC, the Tariff may be unjust and unreasonable.  Specifically, ISO-NE requested waiver of certain provisions in its Tariff in order to delay the retirement of two generating units owned by Exelon Generation Company, LLC (“Exelon”) for fuel security purposes.  FERC denied the waiver request and preliminarily found that the Tariff did not sufficiently address specific regional fuel security concerns. 
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Three recent FERC staff decisions (“Decisions”) confirm that, for purposes of establishing the mandatory licensing requirements under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”), groundwater is not a “non-navigable Commerce Clause stream.”  Thus, a hydropower project—and particularly a closed-loop pumped storage project—that uses only groundwater as its water source will not require FERC licensing if the project does not trigger other jurisdictional tests under the FPA.
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