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FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

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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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.
In the wake of the February extreme cold weather that caused record levels of electric generation to be taken offline, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) has scheduled a two-day technical conference to discuss issues surrounding the threat to electric system reliability posed by climate change and extreme weather. The virtual technical conference is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, June 1 and 2, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm ET.
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.
A LawFlash prepared by our energy team discusses likely results of the Texas power outages and blackouts during the recent winter storm, which include federal and state investigations into the outages, federal investigations into commodity and futures price spikes during the storm, force majeure inquiries, and demands for corrective actions to ensure future reliability of the grid system.
On February 17, Texas Governor Greg Abbott took the extraordinary measure of directing the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) to restrict out-of-state exports of natural gas produced in Texas through February 21. Noting the unprecedented extreme weather events facing the state, Governor Abbott’s directive seeks to “ensure[] that any natural gas currently in Texas is not sent outside of Texas,” unless it is first offered for sale to in-state power generators. Governor Abbott “mandate[d] that all sourced natural gas be made available for sale to local power generation opportunities before leaving the state of Texas.”
Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) has issued a report analyzing the effects of renewable energy growth in the MISO region and concluding that the system can reliably accommodate a significant percentage of variable renewable resources.
The US Congress adopted extensive federal energy policies in the Energy Act of 2020 (Energy Act), which President Donald Trump signed into law on December 27 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
At its December open meeting, FERC proposed to establish rules for incentive-based rate treatments for voluntary cybersecurity investments by a public utility.