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FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments
Three Massachusetts utilities, in coordination with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), issued a request for proposals on May 7, 2021 seeking bids for offshore wind projects. The utilities are seeking to procure between 400 megawatts (MW) and 1.6 gigawatts (GW), and developers are permitted to submit applications for projects between 200 MW and 1.6 GW.
A very significant step in the development of offshore wind in the United States was reached on May 11, 2021, when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) approved Vineyard Wind’s 62-turbine offshore wind farm located about 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. This is the first major offshore wind project approved by BOEM, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Marine Fisheries Service: at 800 megawatts of capacity, the project is an order of magnitude larger than previously-installed test turbines and projects like the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm.
As has been reported, a recent ransomware attack has caused an interstate pipeline and fuel supplier to much of the eastern United States to shut down its operations. Although the attack did not compromise operational systems, the company opted to cease operations as a precautionary measure.
FERC granted a partial waiver requested by a generation and transmission service cooperative (Petitioner) of certain obligations under FERC’s regulations implementing Section 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Act of 1978 (PURPA), which mandates the purchase of power from qualifying facilities (QFs). Petitioner filed on behalf of itself and six distribution cooperative member-owners (Participating Members) for waiver of the Participating Members’ obligations to purchase energy and capacity directly from QFs and waiver of Petitioner’s obligation to sell energy and capacity directly to QFs. The order is an example of jurisdictional entities’ ability to swap certain of their obligations under FERC’s regulations in limited situations so long as the intent of the relevant laws is fulfilled.
On April 19, 2021, eleven years since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report issued to Congress criticizing the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) for failing to adequately monitor offshore oil and gas pipelines located on the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico.
US Bankruptcy Judge Mary F. Walrath of the District of Delaware entered an order on April 21 in In re Nine Point Energy Holdings, Inc., Case No. 21-10570 (MFW) (Bankr. D. Del. Apr. 21, 2021), finding that Caliber Measurement Services LLC, Caliber Midstream Fresh Water Partners LLC, and Caliber North Dakota LLC (together, Caliber) violated the automatic stay by sending “reservation of rights” letters to third parties that were providing services allegedly in violation of agreements between Caliber and Nine Point Energy Holdings, Inc. and certain of its affiliates (collectively, NPE).
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced last week that it has obtained another admission from a trader of violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC regulations, demonstrating its continued aggressive enforcement of its market anti-manipulation provisions.
On March 18, FERC issued a highly anticipated order denying the petition for declaratory order filed by several electric public utilities addressing the extent to which equity ownership of multiple utility holding companies by certain institutional investors creates affiliation between those holding companies. The institutional investors in question hold specific blanket authorizations to acquire up to 20% of the voting equity in public utilities without seeking transaction-specific authorizations from FERC, in contrast to the existing blanket authorization available to all entities that allows acquisitions below 10% without prior authorization.
FERC issued a Notice Seeking Comments on March 18 on its proposal to collect additional data from market-based rate (MBR) Sellers whose ultimate upstream affiliate(s) own their voting securities under a Federal Power Act Section 203(a)(2) blanket authorization. FERC proposes changes to the MBR Data Dictionary so that the relational database rolling out in 2021 can more accurately reflect ultimate upstream affiliates (or the lack thereof) among Sellers that have an ultimate upstream affiliate that is an institutional investor who acquired their securities pursuant to a Section 203(a)(2) blanket authorization specific to that investor.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) announced during its March 18 open meeting two recent actions to promote greater use of distributed energy resources and demand response. First, FERC has amended regulations on distributed energy resource aggregation in the capacity, energy, and ancillary markets operated by a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) or an Independent System Operator (ISO). Second, and related to its distributed energy resource amendments, FERC is seeking public comment on whether to revise regulations barring RTOs and ISOs from accepting bids of certain demand response aggregations.