FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

A new market registration option is among the changes SPP is likely to propose in next month’s mandatory compliance filing.

We reported last week on steps that ISO New England has taken to finalize tariff revisions to meet the directives of Order No. 841, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC or Commission) final rule on electric storage participation in Independent System Operator (ISO) and Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) markets. Order No. 841 requires RTOs and ISOs to submit proposed models that permit electric storage resources to participate in organized capacity, energy, and ancillary service markets by December 3, 2018 (read a more comprehensive overview of the final rule here). At the end of October, Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (SPP) moved closer towards meeting that goal when its board approved tariff revisions developed in response to FERC’s Order No. 841 directives, which should represent new opportunities for some of the 2.5 GW of pending electric storage resources in SPP’s generator interconnection queue.

On October 18, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued Order No. 850, adopting a suite of reliability standards proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to address the cybersecurity risks posed by supply chains for industrial control system assets and services in critical electric utility environments. The final rule largely adopts the proposals from the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR). But the Commission also directs NERC to expand the scope of the new requirements to include Electronic Access or Control Monitoring Systems (EACMS) and to evaluate the need to further expand the scope of the requirements to include Physical Access Control Systems (PACS) and Protected Cyber Assets (PCAs).

Despite fears that the Commission would shorten the implementation period for the new requirements, the Commission adopted the 18-month implementation period that was originally proposed by NERC.

Revisions aim to build on framework designed originally for pumped-storage hydro facilities and bring region closer to Order No. 841 compliance.

Earlier this year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued Electric Storage Participation in Markets Operated by Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators (Order No. 841), a final rule amending FERC’s regulations to facilitate participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy, and ancillary service markets operated by regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and independent system operators (ISOs). As we reported previously, Order No. 841 requires RTOs and ISOs to devise an electric storage resource participation model that meets certain general criteria. The RTOs/ISOs must file the tariff revisions directed by Order No. 841 by December 3, 2018, and implement those changes, if approved, by December 3, 2019.

On October 24, US President Donald Trump designated Commissioner Neil Chatterjee as the new chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Commissioner Chatterjee, a Republican, replaces Commissioner Kevin McIntyre, also a Republican, as chairman of the Commission. Senate confirmation is not required for this chairman designation. Commissioner McIntyre served as Chairman of the Commission for close to a year after he was confirmed by the Senate on November 2, 2017. Commissioner McIntyre had sent a letter to President Trump earlier this week, indicating that he would be stepping down due to health concerns.

The August 2018 enactment of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) came after more than two years of debate over the appropriate scope of jurisdiction for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Much has already been written about FIRRMA and its potentially ambitious reach, as well as about the interest by certain parties, including members of Congress, to keep CFIUS away from some transactions. The result was a law that amended a number of provisions defining CFIUS jurisdiction, both expanding and narrowing key parts of the Committee’s reach. The pilot program is focused on certain specific types of transactions, without regard to the country of the acquiring entity, that CFIUS can review under FIRRMA, including transactions involving “Nuclear Electric Power Generation;” “Petrochemical Manufacturing;” “Power, Distribution and Specialty Transformer Manufacturing;” “Storage Battery Manufacturing;” and “Turbine and Turbine Generator Set Units Manufacturing.”

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American national security officials believe that spies working on behalf of an adversarial nation-state successfully carried out an attack against US companies by compromising a key hardware supply chain, according to a report issued October 4 by Bloomberg Businessweek. The report details how the attackers implemented a “seeding” attack by installing tiny, malicious microchips on motherboards—a type of computer circuit board that houses processing and other essential components—that were assembled in Chinese factories. The exploit apparently had a ripple effect, as the compromised motherboards were ultimately installed in commercial servers that are widely distributed in the United States. One official estimates that the attack affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank and government contractors, and may have enabled the attackers to communicate with or infiltrate the sabotaged servers.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) on September 18 requested Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval of a new Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Reliability Standard, CIP-012-1. The proposed standard would require electric utilities with defined “Control Centers” to implement controls that protect sensitive data communicated between any applicable control centers. Driving the standard is a concern that these control centers can only perform their real-time reliability functions if they can receive and transmit sensitive operational data in a secure manner.

An amendment to FERC’s M&A statute, Section 203 of the Federal Power Act, was signed into law on September 28. Public Law 115-247 (PL 115-347 or the amendment) makes a minor but helpful change to one provision of FPA Section 203 by immunizing one particular class of transactions from pre-consummation FERC M&A application and approval requirements.

Section 203’s sweep is broad; essentially any direct or indirect “disposition” of voting control over any FERC-jurisdictional “public utility” (almost every US generating company, wholesale power marketer, transmission provider, and traditional franchised utility) requires pre-consummation Section 203 authorization. Only selected types of transactions are exempt, usually those involving smaller “qualifying facility” generators and purely retail businesses and facilities. Some classes of “holding companies” of electric power businesses and assets are also subject to Section 203’s requirements. Numerous technically defined classes of transactions, such as many internal reorganizations, are blanket-authorized under FERC regulations and require no Section 203 applications or orders.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced on September 28 that it has created an Insider Trading & Information Protection Task Force. The new task force is responsible for identifying and charging those who engage in insider trading or otherwise improperly use confidential information in connection with any market regulated by the CFTC. The task force is composed of members from the CFTC’s offices in Chicago, Kansas City, New York, and Washington, DC.