On February 11, 2019, a group of seventeen Democrat United States Senators and Senator Bernie Sanders wrote a letter (the “2019 Letter”) to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee urging FERC to adopt a rule requiring Regional Transmission Organizations (“RTOs”) and Independent System Operators (“ISOs”) to open their markets to participation of aggregated distributed energy resources (“DERs”).
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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 28, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a pre-publication version of a proposal revisiting the cost analysis underlying the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (“MATS Rule” or “MATS”) for coal- and oil-fired electric generating units (“EGUs”) and conducting the residual risk and technology review required by the Clean Air Act (“Proposal”).  The Proposal would reverse a previous finding, issued by EPA under the Obama Administration, that regulation of hazardous air pollutant (“HAP”) emissions from EGUs under the MATS Rule was “appropriate and necessary” but would nonetheless leave the rule in effect.  The Proposal also concludes that more stringent HAP emission limits are not warranted by the required risk and technology reviews.
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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 18, 2018, FERC eliminated the requirement for hydroelectric project licensees to file Form 80, which solicited information on the use and development of recreation facilities at FERC-licensed hydropower projects.  FERC also revised Sections 8.1 and 8.2 of its regulations to (1) modernize licensee public notice practice, (2) clarify recreational signage requirements, and (3) provide flexibility to assist licensees’ compliance with these requirements.  The Final Rule will go into effect 90 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
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On December 11, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Department of the Army (together, “Agencies”) released their much-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“Proposed Rule”), which if adopted would scale back the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) by narrowing the definition of “Waters of the United States” (“WOTUS”) to include only those waters that are oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and wetlands, and their “naturally occurring surface water channels.”  The practical implications of the Proposed Rule for hydropower project owners and energy project developers are that ephemeral streams and many ponds and ditches used in agricultural, industrial, and construction activities would no longer be within the jurisdictional reach of the CWA, alleviating the requirement for and uncertainty surrounding permitting requirements and related mitigation measures.
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On November 15, 2018, FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) to implement Public Law No. 115-247, which amended section 203 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) to clarify that FERC authorization is only required for mergers or consolidations valued at more than $10 million.  In addition, in accordance with the new law’s requirements, FERC proposes that transactions that are valued at $10 million or less, but more than $1 million, would only be subject to a notification requirement.

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On November 15, 2018, FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) addressing the effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“TCJA”), which lowered the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, on accumulated deferred income tax (“ADIT”) balances. Specifically, FERC proposed to require transmission companies to remove excess ADIT or add deficient ADIT to their rate bases. In addition, FERC issued a policy statement providing accounting and ratemaking guidance related to the treatment of ADIT (“Policy Statement”).
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On October 31, 2018, FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee submitted comments (“October 31 Comments”) on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) proposed rule, the Affordable Clean Energy rule (“ACE Rule”).  If approved, the ACE Rule would implement new regulations for states to develop plans to reduce Greenhouse Gas (“GHG”) emissions from certain existing Electric Utility Generating Units.  Chairman Chatterjee’s comments generally supported the ACE Rule.
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