FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on December 18, 2018, identifying significant weaknesses in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Pipeline Security Program management and recommending improvements to address those weaknesses. The report was driven by a recognition that “pipelines increasingly rely on sophisticated networked computerized systems and electronic data, which are vulnerable to cyber attack or intrusion,” and that “new threats to the nation’s pipeline systems have evolved to include sabotage by environmental activists and cyber attack or intrusion by nations.”

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has issued an order establishing a statewide goal of 3.0 GW of energy storage deployments by 2030—with an interim target of 1.5 GW by 2025—and related reforms to encourage that development.

The order is the latest step in a broader plan being implemented by state authorities to dramatically boost the presence of energy storage in New York. In November 2017, the state legislature enacted a law directing the PSC to establish a statewide energy storage goal for 2030. In January 2018, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a target of 1.5 GW of deployed energy storage by 2025. In mid-2018, PSC staff and the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) jointly developed the New York State Energy Storage Roadmap (Roadmap) to provide the PSC with recommendations on the policies, regulations, and initiatives needed to meet those targets.

A new report by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) concludes that the nation is not prepared to adequately respond to a catastrophic power outage. The NIAC is a special advisory council composed of representatives from private industry, state and local government, and academia that is tasked with providing the president with advice on issues facing the nation’s 16 federally designated critical infrastructure sectors. The NIAC issued the report after it was tasked with examining the nation’s ability to respond to and recover from a “catastrophic power outage of a magnitude beyond modern experience, exceeding prior events in severity, scale, duration, and consequence.” The NIAC generally considers these to be limited- or no-notice events with a long duration (i.e., lasting weeks or months due to damage) impacting a broad geographic area (e.g., multiple states and affecting tens of millions of people) that could be further complicated by a cyber or physical attack.

Central to the NIAC’s report is examining the extent to which a catastrophic power outage that causes a failure in one critical infrastructure sector could lead to severe cascading impacts and force other critical sectors to operate in a degraded state for an extended period of time. The report reflects the NIAC’s view that, while the roles and responsibilities for emergency authorities are understood generally, the actual implementation of roles and responsibilities in response to a catastrophic power outage (e.g., cyber and physical attacks and larger-scale disasters) is still very much unclear. In this regard, the report stresses the importance of strong federal leadership in responding to and recovering from large-scale emergencies.

In a narrow 50-49 vote, the US Senate on December 6 confirmed Bernard L. McNamee, the current head of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Policy, to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Mr. McNamee, the third Republican on the five-member Commission, was nominated by President Donald Trump in October to fill the vacant seat formerly occupied by former Commissioner Robert Powelson, who stepped down earlier this year. Once Mr. McNamee is sworn in, the Commission will return to full strength, with two Democratic and three Republican appointees.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on November 15 favorably advanced the nominations of Dr. Rita Baranwal (Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy)) and Bernard McNamee (Member, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to the full US Senate.

Eighteen governors, members of the Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition, issued an open letter on November 9 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to encourage the development of needed electric transmission that they claim existing federal efforts are insufficient to address.

Morgan Lewis partner Brendan Kalb discusses Project KISS, an initiative designed by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to simplify regulations and practices as well as minimize the cost of regulations, with The Hedge Fund Law Report. The CFTC’s proposed amendments seek to codify existing CFTC staff advisory and no-action letter relief for commodity pool operators (CPOs) and commodity trading advisors (CTAs). Brendan says, “These changes take some of those time-consuming reviews off the desks of the CFTC and the Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight. They definitely grease the wheels in that respect.”

Read the full The Hedge Fund Law Report article.

The US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing last week to consider the nomination of Bernard L. McNamee, the current head of the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Policy, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission). FERC commissioners are appointed by the president of the United States but must also be confirmed by vote of a full Senate. President Donald Trump nominated Mr. McNamee, a Republican, in October to fill the vacant seat formerly occupied by former Commissioner Robert Powelson, who stepped down from his post earlier this year. If ultimately confirmed, Mr. McNamee will serve as the third Republican commissioner and restore the five-member panel to full strength.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the formation of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force (the Task Force) on October 30. The Task Force is a partnership between government and private sector partners created to “examine and develop consensus recommendations to identify and manage risk to the global ICT supply chain.” The announcement came at the conclusion of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and follows other government industry initiatives, such as the Oil and Natural Gas Pipeline Cybersecurity Initiative, that have been developed to manage risks posed by increasingly global supply chains.

For years, the US electric power industry has witnessed a steady uptick in the total capacity of deployed energy storage resources. Part of that growth is attributable to more favorable economics for storage projects, a trend that is set to continue in the coming years—a recent study by Bloomberg NEF forecasted that the global energy storage industry will see $620 billion in new investments by 2040. While the development of stationary batteries is expected to be outpaced by other storage applications, such as electric vehicles, the study also suggests that rapidly sliding capital costs for battery systems will be advantageous for utility-scale projects.