FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

As we reported in December 2018, to jumpstart the energy storage market as envisioned by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) issued an order establishing an aggressive 3 GW energy storage goal by 2030, with an interim target of 1.5 GW by 2025, and directing investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) to engage in competitive procurements for energy storage. The IOUs will issue draft requests for proposals (RFPs) this summer following a stakeholder process that kicks off on March 29.

A recent advisory published by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement and comments of the division director have highlighted the CFTC’s attention toward investigating potential violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) that involve foreign corrupt practices. On March 6, CFTC Director of Enforcement James M. McDonald addressed this very issue in remarks before the ABA National Institute on White Collar Crime. At the same time, the division issued an Enforcement Advisory providing guidance on how the CFTC will treat instances of self-reporting and cooperation concerning CEA violations that also involve foreign corrupt practices.

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In response to state legislation enacted last year, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is seeking comments concerning the state of and prognosis for energy storage development within the State of New Jersey. New Jersey enacted the Clean Energy Act on May 23, 2018. Among other things, the act requires the BPU, in consultation with the regional grid operator, PJM Interconnection, LLC, and other stakeholders, to conduct an energy storage analysis and submit a written report on energy storage to the governor and legislature by May 23, 2019.

On February 21, FERC issued an order[1] on rehearing and clarification of Order No. 845,[2] which was issued in April 2018, and reformed certain parts of the large generator interconnection rules. As we previously reported, the reforms of Order No. 845 were intended to improve the efficiency of processing interconnection requests, maintain reliability, balance the needs of interconnection customers and transmission owners, and remove barriers to resource development. In Order No. 845-A, FERC generally affirmed Order No. 845 and denied most of the rehearing requests, but did grant clarification and rehearing in limited respects. The revisions and clarifications in Order No. 845-A largely preserve the reforms and explain how certain reforms should be implemented. Order No. 845-A will become effective 75 days after publication in the Federal Register. Transmission providers are required to submit compliance filings by May 22, 2019.

An amendment to FERC’s M&A statute, Section 203 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), was signed into law on September 28, 2018. (See our prior blog post.) Public Law 115-247 (PL 115-347 or the Amendment) makes a minor but helpful change to one provision of FPA Section 203 by immunizing one particular class of transactions from pre-consummation FERC M&A application and approval requirements.

On February 21, 2019, FERC adopted the rulemaking[1] that the Amendment directs:

  • Mergers or consolidations of public utility facilities that are valued at under $1 million may be undertaken without the parties first obtaining FPA Section 203 authorization from FERC
  • Likewise, mergers or consolidations of public utility facilities that are valued above $1 million but not above $10 million may be undertaken without the parties first obtaining FPA Section 203 authorization from FERC, but are subject to a reporting requirement
  • The reporting requirement applicable to those merger transactions falling within the $1 million to $10 million range directs that the form of notice to the Commission be submitted within 30 days following the facility merger or consolidation, and include the following information:[2]
    • The exact name of the public utility and its principal business address
    • A narrative description of the transaction, including
      • the identity of all parties involved in the transaction, whether such parties are affiliates, and all jurisdictional facilities associated with or affected by the transaction;
      • the location of such jurisdictional facilities involved in the transaction;
      • the date on which the transaction was consummated;
      • the consideration for the transaction; and
      • the effect of the transaction on the ownership and control of such jurisdictional facilities.
  • Mergers or consolidations of public utility facilities that are valued above $10 million will continue to require formal, pre-consummation FPA Section 203 applications and orders, unless some other exemption or blanket authorization applies in a particular case
  • The new rulemaking will become effective 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register, or likely in late March 2019.

The new rulemaking will simplify certain asset transfers but does not in any way change or relax Commission Section 203 requirements relating to changes in the voting ownership interests of a public utility, and to direct and indirect “dispositions” of control. Those requirements were not affected by the Amendment.


[1] Implementation of Amended Section 203(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Power Act, Order No. 855, 166 FERC ¶ 61,120 (2019).

[2] 18 C.F.R. § 33.12 (2019).

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.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) Office of Enforcement (OE) issued its 2018 Report on Enforcement on November 15. The report provides a review of OE’s activities during fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018), which begins October 1 and ends September 30 annually. Like last year, the report reveals likely areas of focus for FERC enforcement in the coming year, and provides guidance to the industry based on the wide variety of enforcement matters that are otherwise non-public by synthesizing some of the more disparate developments from audits, market surveillance, and other enforcement activities for the benefit of industry stakeholders.

The August 2018 enactment of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) came after more than two years of debate over the appropriate scope of jurisdiction for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Much has already been written about FIRRMA and its potentially ambitious reach, as well as about the interest by certain parties, including members of Congress, to keep CFIUS away from some transactions. The result was a law that amended a number of provisions defining CFIUS jurisdiction, both expanding and narrowing key parts of the Committee’s reach. The pilot program is focused on certain specific types of transactions, without regard to the country of the acquiring entity, that CFIUS can review under FIRRMA, including transactions involving “Nuclear Electric Power Generation;” “Petrochemical Manufacturing;” “Power, Distribution and Specialty Transformer Manufacturing;” “Storage Battery Manufacturing;” and “Turbine and Turbine Generator Set Units Manufacturing.”

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An amendment to FERC’s M&A statute, Section 203 of the Federal Power Act, was signed into law on September 28. Public Law 115-247 (PL 115-347 or the amendment) makes a minor but helpful change to one provision of FPA Section 203 by immunizing one particular class of transactions from pre-consummation FERC M&A application and approval requirements.

Section 203’s sweep is broad; essentially any direct or indirect “disposition” of voting control over any FERC-jurisdictional “public utility” (almost every US generating company, wholesale power marketer, transmission provider, and traditional franchised utility) requires pre-consummation Section 203 authorization. Only selected types of transactions are exempt, usually those involving smaller “qualifying facility” generators and purely retail businesses and facilities. Some classes of “holding companies” of electric power businesses and assets are also subject to Section 203’s requirements. Numerous technically defined classes of transactions, such as many internal reorganizations, are blanket-authorized under FERC regulations and require no Section 203 applications or orders.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) decision to reject a transmission cost allocation proposal submitted by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). The court found that FERC adequately explained its decision to reject the proposal on the grounds that it undervalued interregional transmission projects.

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