FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently issued a final rule, Order No. 880, revising its hydropower project inspection and safety regulations. The updates revise part 12 of FERC’s regulations and conclude an approximately year and a half of rulemaking in Docket No. RM20-9.

At its December 2021 open meeting, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) approved new rules to improve utilization of the transmission system by redefining “transmission line rating” to account for ambient weather conditions. The Commission expects that the change will permit greater transmission line utilization while also fostering reliability and safety. Transmission providers have 120 days to submit a compliance filing to account for the redefinition and must implement all requirements within three years of the compliance filing due date.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a proposed rule under the Clean Act intended to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants from crude oil and natural gas operations (production, processing, transmission, and storage segments).

US President Joseph Biden signed an executive order on August 5 that underscores his stated commitment to encourage the development and deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s clean energy agenda. The executive order, Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks, aims to increase the production of zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and directs new pollution and fuel economy standards for light‑, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles for model years 2027 and later. President Biden’s issuance of the executive order, combined with the EV-related implications of various provisions in the draft infrastructure bill currently pending in Congress, may well serve to facilitate increased deployment of EVs in US markets.

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.
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.
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.
In May 2020, US President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13920, banning the unrestricted import or use of certain categories of bulk-power system electric equipment from foreign adversaries, with a focus on Russian and Chinese equipment suppliers. The future of that regulation is now up in the air.
Our colleagues in the tax practice recently prepared a LawFlash examining the final regulation on the Section 45Q carbon capture tax credit issued by the US Department of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service. We discussed the draft regulations in an earlier LawFlash, which also provides background on the Section 45Q credit. Because the final rule was published and took effect before the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the regulation is not subject to the regulatory freeze issued by the new administration.