On September 19, 2019, FERC proposed substantial revisions to its Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) regulations.  If adopted, the package of reforms proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) would: (1) allow states more flexibility to incorporate competitive forces when setting avoided cost rates for Qualifying Facilities (“QFs”), (2) modify the “one-mile rule,” (3) reduce the size threshold for the rebuttable presumption about QFs’ ability to access markets, (4) provide clarity on establishing a legally enforceable obligation (“LEO”), and (5) establish a simplified process to challenge a project’s QF status.  FERC requested comments on a number of proposals, which are due 60 days from publication of the NOPR in the Federal Register.
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Summary of NOPR

On September 19, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to revise its regulations implementing Sections 201 and 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) in light of changes in the energy industry since 1978.[1]
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On August 27, 2019, FERC issued a final rule amending its regulations at 18 C.F.R. § 385.2001(a) to require that all physical filings and submissions to be delivered to FERC, other than those sent via the U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”), are to be sent to FERC’s off-site security screening facility in Rockville, Maryland.  FERC’s rule makes no changes to electronic filings submitted through its online system.  The final rule was published in the Federal Register on September 4 and will go into effect 60 days later, or on November 4, 2019.
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On July 18, 2019, FERC issued a final rule (“Order No. 860”) revising its data collection and reporting requirements for market-based rate (“MBR”) sellers (“MBR Sellers”).  FERC will require MBR Sellers to provide certain information about corporate relationships and affiliations through a “relational database” that FERC will implement over the next year and a half.  Among other things, FERC adopted reforms to (1) revise the scope of ownership information provided by MBR Sellers in their market-based rate filings; (2) change the information to be included in an asset appendix; (3) require MBR Sellers to submit monthly updates to their relational database; (4) require MBR Sellers to file quarterly notices of change in status, instead of 30 days after the change in status; and (5) remove the existing requirement that MBR Sellers submit corporate organization charts.  Notably, FERC declined to adopt its proposal requiring MBR Sellers to submit “Connected Entity” information.
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On July 18, 2019, FERC issued Order No. 861, modifying its regulations regarding the horizontal market power analysis required to obtain authorization to sell energy, capacity, or ancillary services at market-based rates.  FERC adopted its proposal (see December 20, 2018 edition of the WER) to relieve electric power sellers of the obligation to submit indicative screens to obtain or retain market-based rate authority in any Regional Transmission Organization (“RTO”)/Independent System Operator (“ISO”) market with FERC-approved RTO/ISO monitoring and mitigation.  Market-based rate sellers (“MBR Sellers”) must continue to submit indicative screens for authorization to make capacity sales in any RTO/ISO that lacks an RTO/ISO-administered capacity market subject to FERC-approved monitoring and mitigation—currently, the California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”) and Southwest Power Pool (“SPP”).  FERC stated its intent for the rule is to ease regulatory burdens on MBR Sellers while simultaneously preserving its authority to prevent the exercise of market power.
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On July 18, 2019, FERC issued an order denying in part and granting in part a request for clarification or rehearing of Order No. 856, which revised its regulations relating to interlocking officers and directors.  FERC provided additional clarification and explanation, but declined to make any further revisions or to allow rehearing.
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On June 7, 2019, Judge Dennis Montali of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of California San Francisco Division found that FERC’s finding that it had concurrent jurisdiction with the U.S. bankruptcy court over wholesale power agreements was “unenforceable in bankruptcy court and of no force on the parties before it.” Judge Montali further noted that if necessary, the U.S. bankruptcy court will “enjoin FERC from perpetuating its attempt to exercise power it wholly lacks.” At issue, on review by the bankruptcy court, was whether, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2201, the bankruptcy court has exclusive jurisdiction over Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s and Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation’s (collectively “Debtors”) right to reject a power purchase agreement (“PPA”) under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code, and whether FERC has concurrent jurisdiction to grant or deny PG&E’s rejection of any PPAs.

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On April 1, 2019, FERC issued deficiency letters to the six FERC-jurisdictional ISOs and RTOs, asking for additional information about how they intend to comply with the directives of FERC Order No. 841.  The specific ISOs and RTOs are: ISO New England Inc. (“ISO-NE”); Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”); California Independent System Operator Corporation (“CAISO”); New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”); PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”); and Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”).  Each grid operator has thirty days to respond to the deficiency letters.
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On March 21, 2019, the same day FERC issued an inquiry into Return on Equity (“ROE”) policies (see here), FERC also published another Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking comments on the scope and implementation of its electric transmission incentives policy and regulations.  The NOI covers a broad range of topics from using incentives to encourage new technology integration to unlocking location constrained resources and addressing resiliency concerns.  Initial comments are due 90 days after the NOI is published in the Federal Register, with reply comments due 30 days thereafter.

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On March 21, 2019, FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) seeking information regarding whether and how to revise its policy for determining the rate of return on equity (“ROE”) used in setting rates charged by jurisdictional public utilities.  The NOI also seeks comment on whether any changes to the Commission’s ROE policies for public utilities should be applied to interstate natural gas and oil pipelines.  Specifically, the NOI requests information in eight areas:  (1) the role of FERC’s base ROE in investment decision-making and what objectives should guide the Commission’s approach; (2) whether uniform application of FERC’s base ROE policy across the electric, interstate natural gas pipeline and oil pipeline industries is appropriate and advisable; (3) performance of the discounted cash flow (“DCF”) model; (4) proxy groups; (5) the choice of financial model(s) used; (6) the mismatch between market-based ROE determinations and book-value rate base; (7) how FERC determines whether an existing ROE is unjust and unreasonable under the first prong of Federal Power Act section 206; and (8) model mechanics and implementation.
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