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FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) on February 25, 2021, approved a new regulation formally prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), or fracking, in the Delaware River Basin. The final rule makes permanent a drilling moratorium imposed by the DRBC in 2010.
FERC issued an original license for a period of 25 years, pursuant to Part I of the Federal Power Act, to Oregon State University (OSU) to construct, operate, and maintain the proposed PacWave South Hydrokinetic Project No. 14616 (PacWave Project). The PacWave Project is a first-of-its-kind wave energy testing facility that will be sited approximately seven miles off the coast of the state of Oregon and consists of both offshore and onshore components.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order on February 24 to address possible vulnerabilities in the supply chains of critical national economic sectors, including the energy sector. The executive order directs various executive departments and agencies to complete, in coordination with private stakeholders, a series of assessments to evaluate the resiliency of supply chains in those key sectors. In his prepared remarks, President Biden explained that the order was prompted partly by concerns surrounding shortages in semiconductors, which are vital components of electronic devices used in everything from mobile phones to motor vehicles.
FERC announced on February 22 that it will open a new proceeding to examine the threats of climate change and extreme weather to electric reliability. The investigation will assess how grid operators prepare for and respond to extreme weather events, including, droughts, extreme cold, wildfires, hurricanes, and prolonged heat waves. The proceeding will include a technical conference with an opportunity for parties to submit comments in advance of that conference.
FERC issued a pair of orders terminating, or upholding the termination of, proceedings designed to evaluate the resiliency of the electric grid on February 18. Both proceedings arose from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) controversial proposal directing the Commission in 2017 to consider market reforms that would benefit certain baseload generation resources.
FERC has issued an order setting aside in part its prior order on New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (NYISO’s) buyer-side market power mitigation rules by reversing its decision not to exempt payments received under the Commercial System Distribution Load Relief Programs (CSRPs) submitted for consideration from the calculation of Special Case Resource (SCR) offer floors.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced on February 22 that its Office of Enforcement would examine wholesale natural gas and electricity market activity during last week’s extreme cold weather “to determine if any market participants engaged in market manipulation or other violations.” FERC’s brief press release explained that its examination is part of its existing surveillance program for market participant behaviors in the wholesale natural gas and electric markets.
Is a midstream contract treated the same as other executory contracts in bankruptcy, subject to assumption and rejection pursuant to the US Bankruptcy Code? An executory contract is any contract of the debtor where both the debtor and the contract counterparty have ongoing performance obligations on the date of the bankruptcy filing. A midstream contract, if considered by the court to be an executory contract, may be assumed or rejected under 11 USC § 365.
On February 18, 2021, FERC approved the recertification of Brunner Island, LLC’s status as an exempt wholesale generator (EWG) subject to conditions that limit the economic activity of Brunner unrelated to wholesale power activities.
FERC has issued an order revising its prior order on PJM’s Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) by vacating a footnote that suggested the New Jersey Basic Generation Service default service auction—and by extension other state default service auctions shaped by state resource policy—were not “fuel neutral” or “nondiscriminatory” as required by Commission precedent. As a result of this clarification, resources selected through the New Jersey default service auction will not be presumed to be subject to the MOPR and may be eligible for the MOPR exclusion for independently evaluated, nondiscriminatory, fuel-neutral, competitive state-directed default service auctions.