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FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

In a notice issued on September 29, 2021, FERC stated that it did not act on PJM Interconnection LLC’s (PJM’s) proposed reforms to the application of the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) because the Commissioners are divided two against two as to the lawfulness of the change (Notice). Because FERC did not act within 60 days of PJM’s filing under Section 205 of the Federal Power Act, PJM’s proposal became effective by operation of law. PJM’s revisions “focus” the applicability of the MOPR and will allow certain resources that receive state support to participate in PJM’s capacity auction without being subject to the MOPR, significantly narrowing the scope of the prior rule.

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) jointly authored a report regarding the February 2021 power outages in Texas and the US Midwest caused by extreme cold weather. The report identifies the causes of the outages and outlines a series of recommendations focusing on enhanced protection against cold weather for critical generation as well as the natural gas assets supplying gas-fired generation so that this infrastructure remains operational even in extreme cold weather.

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The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has submitted 10 nominees to FERC to serve on the newly formed Joint Federal-State Task Force on Electric Transmission. Last month in Docket No. AD21-15, FERC issued an order establishing a joint federal-state task force with NARUC to evaluate barriers and solutions to transmission development. The task force will conduct joint hearings on transmission-related issues with a focus on developing ways to plan and pay for new transmission facilities that are best for the public interest.

FERC issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANOPR) in Docket No. RM21-17, seeking comment on the potential need for reform of Commission regulations necessary to improve regional transmission planning and cost allocation and generator interconnection processes. Comments and reply comments are due 75 days and 105 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register.
Since January, FERC-regulated market participants and practitioners alike have anticipated how FERC may approach its enforcement mission under the stewardship of Chairman Richard Glick following his appointment as chair by President Biden. Although most market participants and practitioners have expected FERC to take an aggressive approach in investigating and penalizing instances of misconduct, FERC confirmed those expectations in its May 20 open meeting.
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 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.
FERC approved revisions to three Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Reliability Standards to expand the scope of the assets subject to supply chain cybersecurity requirements and related obligations. Supply chain cybersecurity continues to be a focus of NERC, energy industry stakeholders, and government regulatory and securities agencies.
FERC issued a final rule on March 18 amending its regulations to establish a one-year period for state agencies or other certifying authorities to act on requests for water quality certifications required for a certificate of public convenience and necessity for a natural gas pipeline or an authorization for an liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.