Regulatory Updates

April 1, 2020 Newly Effective Reliability Standards

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As of April 1, 2020, the following standards become effective:
CIP-003-8 – Cyber Security – Security Management Controls
PRC-006-NPCC-2 – Automatic Underfrequency Load Shedding

All Reliability Standards, along with their status, purpose, implementation plans, relevant FERC Orders, and Reliability Standard Audit Worksheets, can be accessed at NERC’s One-Stop Shop.

For more information on the NERC Reliability Standards and their potential applicability and impact, please contact Kristen Connolly McCullough.

FERC Holds Call with State Officials on Coronavirus Response

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On Friday, March 27, 2020 FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee convened a conference call with state public utility commissioners (members of the National Association of  Regulatory Utility Commissioners - NARUC), state energy officials (members of the National Association of State Energy Officials - NASEO) and representatives from the National Governors Association, to discuss Coronavirus response measures.  The briefing included statements by the Directors of FERC’s Office of the Executive Director, Office of Electricity Reliability and the Office of Energy Infrastructure Security.  FERC has 1,400 employees working remotely.  FERC staff reported regular communications  with the RTOs and ISOs and indicated no present threats to bulk electric system reliability.  In-person audits and testimony through the Office of Enforcement have been cancelled until July.  NARUC President Brandon Presley of the Mississippi Commission also stressed the importance of state-federal cooperation. Jeff Genzer of DWGP participated on the call in his role as NASEO Counsel.  If you have any questions, please contact Jeff Genzer.

Update: FERC Response to Coronavirus

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  • FERC’s offices are closed to the public; its staff is authorized to telework.
  • Deadlines for certain filings due through May 1, 2020 are extended. The extension applies to compliance filings, responses to deficiency letters, rulemaking comments, most periodic reporting forms and filings required by entities’ tariffs or rate schedules. https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/opennat.asp?fileID=15487415
  • Entities may seek extensions for other deadlines and may seek waiver of Commission orders, regulations, tariffs and rate schedules, as appropriate, and that the Commission will act expeditiously on those other requests. https://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/opennat.asp?fileID=15487415
  • FERC’s Office of Enforcement is postponing all previously scheduled audit site visits and investigative testimony, and will also be receptive to requests for extensions and waivers of compliance filings, forms and EQRs, as appropriate.
  • Technical conferences scheduled through May 2020 will be conducted via conference call or WebEx, or postponed.
  • Some hearings have been postponed; others will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
  • ALJ settlement conferences will continue via conference call.
  • The Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced steps they are taking to ensure that bulk electric system operators can primarily focus their resources on safety and keeping the lights on during this public health emergency. FERC and NERC will consider the effects of the coronavirus in compliance matters. Regional Entities’ on-site audits, certifications and other on-site activities will be postponed. https://ferc.gov/media/news-releases/2020/2020-1/03-18-20.asp
  • LIHEAP Gains from Stimulus Package

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    The Firm is pleased to announce that $900 million has been included in the latest federal coronavirus stimulus package to expand funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Firm serves as counsel to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA), which includes the state directors of LIHEAP. NEADA helped lead the charge to obtain this extra funding (above the base appropriation of $3.74 billion) and we were pleased to be able to assist in this effort. LIHEAP helps the poor, elderly, disabled and veterans pay their utility bills (both heating and cooling needs), and also addresses consumers who use heating oil and propane. The U.S. Senate has now passed the legislation and the House is expected to approve the bill on Friday, March, 27th. For additional information please contact Jeff Genzer.

    PG&E Agrees to Plead Guilty to 85 Count Criminal Indictment Related to Camp Fire; PG&E Bankruptcy Plan Moves Forward Toward Approval

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    On March 23, 2023, the Butte County District Attorney confirmed that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) filings in both the US Bankruptcy Court and before the Security and Exchange Commission correctly states the company was recently indicted by a Butte County Grand Jury and the utility plans to plead guilty as charged to all 85 felony counts in that indictment.  The indictment itself is expected to be unsealed on April 24, 2020, when PG&E will appear before the Butte County Superior Court for the guilty pleas and sentencing, and the plea agreement is expected to be entered.  However, the press release from the Butte County District Attorney explained that the indictment consists of 84 individual counts of Involuntary Manslaughter naming each person who died in the Camp Fire by PG&E’s criminal negligence, and one count of Unlawfully Causing a Fire, including three special allegations for PG&E’s causing great bodily injury to a firefighter; causing great bodily injury to more than one surviving victim; and causing multiple structures to burn. 

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    FERC Issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its Transmission Incentives Policy

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    On March 19, 2020, in lieu of holding its scheduled open meeting, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) Chairman Neil Chatterjee held a news conference and issued a public statement regarding a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) on FERC’s transmission incentives policy, in Docket No. RM20-10.

    Chairman Chatterjee provided the following details regarding the soon-to-be released NOPR, indicating that the NOPR proposes to: (1) grant project incentives based on consumer benefits, rather than the existing approach based on the project’s risks and challenges; (2) award up to a 100 basis point adder to the return on equity (“ROE”) for transmission projects demonstrating economic benefits; (3) award up to a 50 basis point ROE adder for projects showing reliability benefits beyond NERC requirements; (4) increase the ROE adder for participation in a Regional Transmission Organization or Independent System Operator from 50 to 100 basis points, regardless of whether participation is voluntary; (5) modify the existing abandoned plant incentive; and (6) modify the existing ROE incentive cap to a 250 basis point cap on total ROE incentives. The Chairman also indicated that FERC will address cybersecurity-related project incentives in a future proceeding.

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    FERC and NERC Compliance Guidance Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak

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    In a joint statement, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced steps they are taking to prioritize the health and safety of the bulk electric system workforce while making every effort to keep the lights on during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In doing so, these regulators—that are responsible for developing and ensuring compliance with mandatory Reliability Standards for the bulk electric system—recognize that exceptions to compliance with the Reliability Standards may be necessary during this unprecedented public health emergency.

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    New Mexico District Court Judge Dismisses PURPA Claim Against New Mexico Municipal Utility

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    On February 11, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico dismissed a Complaint by Vote Solar and individual Plaintiffs against the City of Farmington, New Mexico, Electric Utility System (“FEUS”). The Complaint asserted that FEUS’s Standby Service Rider for partial requirements customers (the customers had installed rooftop solar primarily needed the municipal utility to act as “backup” service) violated the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”). In 2019, the same Complainants unsuccessfully pursued a petition filed at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), which sought to invalidate the Standby Service Rider. Vote Solar’s next step was to file a complaint in the courts. DWGP represented FEUS before FERC, as well as before the U.S. District Court.

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