FERC has issued its final rule paving the way for incentive-based rate treatment for electric utilities that make certain voluntary cybersecurity investments. As we first noted in 2020 when describing the proposed rule, the final rule provides a new mechanism for promoting cybersecurity of the bulk-power system by rewarding utilities for proactively enhancing their cybersecurity programs beyond the mandatory requirements of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) reliability standards.
FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments
There are no unimportant North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability standards, but from time to time, NERC and the Regional Entities (Regions) place greater emphasis on certain reliability standards in response to events affecting the grid. With headline-grabbing physical attacks on power substations across the country in recent months, one of NERC’s greatest current priorities is evaluating the effectiveness of its physical security standards, most notably CIP-014.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a final rule on January 12 amending its regulations governing the maximum civil monetary penalties assessable for violations of statutes, rules, and orders within FERC’s jurisdiction.
FERC issued three orders focused on increasing regulations for inverter-based resources (IBRs) in fulfillment of one of its primary goals to protect the reliability of the bulk-power system. FERC ensures this reliability through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), an independent Electric Reliability Organization that develops and enforces mandatory reliability standards. The reliability standards are only mandatory for certain entities registered with NERC, but most IBRs are not required to register and therefore are not obligated to follow the reliability standards.
On November 17, 2022, the Office of Enforcement (OE) of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) released its annual report on enforcement activities (Report). The Report details the FY 2022 efforts of OE’s three divisions: Division of Investigations (DOI), Division of Audits and Accounting (DAA), and Division of Analytics and Surveillance (DAS).
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued orders on September 27, 2022, filing and settling charges against various affiliates of financial institutions for failing to maintain, preserve, or produce records that were required to be kept under the CFTC’s recordkeeping requirements and failing to diligently supervise matters related to their businesses. As FERC also has record retention requirements, we discuss key takeaways on compliance and communication methods in light of the CFTC’s orders.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) issued an order on September 22, 2022, informing sellers with market-based rate (MBR) authorization that have not complied with Order No. 860’s requirements to submit data describing their ownership and affiliates that their MBR authorizations will be revoked unless they come into compliance within 15 days.
Following weeks of anticipation, US Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the text of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022, his permitting reform legislation, on September 21, 2022. As part of an agreement to win Senator Manchin’s support of the Inflation Reduction Act, Democratic leadership committed to bringing energy infrastructure permitting reform to a vote this year, namely by including it in a continuing resolution (CR) to extend government funding before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
FERC recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) to expand the existing duty of candor rule by adding a requirement in 18 CFR Part 1 that any entity communicating with FERC or other specified organizations related to a matter that is subject to FERC’s jurisdiction must submit accurate and factual information and must not submit false or misleading information or omit material information. However, exercising due diligence to prevent the submission of false or inaccurate information would be an affirmative defense to violations of the requirement.
US Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced legislation on July 28, 2022, to provide FERC with the authority to temporarily or permanently ban any person from trading or transacting in certain energy markets if that person is found to have manipulated the natural gas or electricity market or willfully or knowingly provided false information regarding those markets. Known as the Energy Consumer Protection Act of 2022, the legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).