FERC to Review Its Policies Regarding the Determination of the Return on Equity in Jurisdictional Rates

Mark R. Haskell, Brett A. Snyder, and George D. Billinson

FERC is conducting a comprehensive review of its method for determining the appropriate return on equity in jurisdictional rates across the energy industry. Comments are due no later than 90 days, and reply comments no later than 120 days, after the publication of the NOI in the Federal Register.

On March 21, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) issued a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) as to whether it should modify its policies (and, if so, how) for calculating the return on equity (“ROE”) for jurisdictional rates.1 Although ostensibly directed at policies applicable to public utilities, the NOI also seeks comment as to whether those policies should also be applied to interstate natural gas pipelines and oil pipelines. Continue reading “FERC to Review Its Policies Regarding the Determination of the Return on Equity in Jurisdictional Rates”

FERC Revises Interlocking Officer and Director Regulations

Mark R. Haskell, George D. Billinson, and Lamiya N. Rahman

Section 305 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”)1 generally requires prior approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “the Commission”) before an individual may serve as an officer or director of: (1) more than one public utility; (2) a public utility and certain entities authorized by law to underwrite or participate in the marketing of public utility securities; or (3) a public utility and a company that supplies electrical equipment to that public utility.

Parts 45 and 46 of the Commission’s regulations implement the provisions of Section 305.2 On February 21, 2019, the Commission announced revisions to those regulations,3 which largely track those outlined in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) issued last July.4 Continue reading “FERC Revises Interlocking Officer and Director Regulations”

FERC Adopts Regulations Implementing $10 Million Threshold for Review of Public Utility Mergers and Consolidations

Mark R. Haskell, George D. Billinson, and Lamiya N. Rahman

On February 21, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) issued a final rule implementing statutory amendments to section 203(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) (“Order No. 855”).1 Order No. 855 revises Part 33 of FERC’s regulations to establish a $10 million threshold for mergers and consolidations requiring FERC review and approval. The Commission is also implementing a notification requirement for merger and consolidation transactions that do not require Commission approval under the newly-amended regulations but that involve the acquisition of facilities valued over one million dollars. The amended regulations take effect on March 28, 2019. Continue reading “FERC Adopts Regulations Implementing $10 Million Threshold for Review of Public Utility Mergers and Consolidations”

FERC Clarifies and Revises Certain Aspects of Its Final Rule Reforming Large Generator Interconnection Procedures and Agreements

Mark R. Haskell, George D. Billinson, and Lamiya N. Rahman

On February 21, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order (“Order No. 845-A”) granting in part and denying in part requests for rehearing and clarification of its final rule reforming the large generator interconnection procedures (“Order No. 845”).[1] Order No. 845 aimed to “improve certainty for interconnection customers, promote more informed interconnections decisions, and enhance the interconnection process”[2] by implementing various revisions to the Commission’s pro forma Large Generator Interconnection Procedures (“LGIP”) and pro forma Large Generator Interconnection Agreements (“LGIA”), including:

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act: Is It Time to Update?

Margaret Anne Hill and Frederick M. Lowther

On Wednesday April 18, 2018, from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. (EDT), Blank Rome Partners Margaret Anne (“Peg”) Hill and Frederick M. Lowther will present a live webinar where they will discuss adjustments that might be made to the Clean Water Act to restore the originally-intended cooperation between state and federal authorities, and what remedies might be available in lieu of congressional action.

The federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”) has been in existence since 1972. For the states that implemented EPA-sanctioned water quality standards, the CWA (specifically Section 401) gave those states the power to enforce those standards by granting or denying certifications to federally-regulated projects impacting state waters. The concept of state veto power over federally-regulated projects was known as “cooperative federalism.”

By 2005, it became clear that Section 401 rights provided a means for states to delay or frustrate projects on grounds only tangentially related to water quality. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (“EPACT”), Congress responded by providing for direct, expedited review of adverse state action in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Notwithstanding EPACT, several states continued to use Section 401 for purposes broader than originally intended and the direct appellate remedy proved ineffective.

Starting with Islander East in 2007, and culminating recently in Constitution Pipeline, states have effectively blocked a number of federally-approved interstate pipeline projects. The impact of these decisions suggests that it is time to revisit the “cooperative federalism” concept.

For more information about this event or to register, please click here.

Mountain Valley Pipeline: West Virginia Cements the Need for FERC and Congressional Action to Curb State Overreach on FERC Jurisdictional Pipelines

Michael L. Krancer, Frederick M. Lowther, and Margaret Anne Hill

As we have noted in our prior blog posts on the Constitution Pipeline and Millennium Valley Lateral projects, §401 of the Federal Clean Water Act has become a focal point in the growing efforts by States to exercise dominant authority over FERC jurisdictional pipelines. This time, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (“WVDEP”) has taken the unprecedented step of actually revoking a §401 certification it had granted in March 2017 and then reaffirmed in May. This action by WVDEP may be the final straw in State authority to review FERC jurisdictional pipelines as FERC and the Congress will be energized to react to the oversteps by New York in Millennium and now West Virginia in Mountain Valley. Continue reading “Mountain Valley Pipeline: West Virginia Cements the Need for FERC and Congressional Action to Curb State Overreach on FERC Jurisdictional Pipelines”

ERA Revisited: Solutions For Navigating An Uncertain Legal Landscape

Margaret Anne Hill, Michael L. Krancer, Frank L. Tamulonis III, and Stephen C. Zumbrun

On June 20, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its opinion in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) v. Commonwealth, 2017 Pa. LEXIS 1393 (Pa. June 20), in connection with the so-called Environmental Rights Amendment or ERA (Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution). Suffice it to say, the opinion has reopened the debate as to the meaning of the ERA, and more importantly, how the ERA is implemented as a practical and legal matter. In brief, the court ruled that amendments to the state’s fiscal code (which sought to address budgetary shortfalls by redirecting money from a fund containing rents and royalties from oil and gas leases on commonwealth land to the general fund) violated the ERA. While the facts before the court were narrowly drawn, the court used the opportunity to revisit the decades old “test” applied in evaluating ERA claims, an issue it first addressed in its 2013 plurality opinion in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013). It abruptly rejected the well-established Payne v. Kassab test and roughly 45 years of ERA-related case law, thereby placing the ERA, and industry, back into legal limbo. Despite some legal uncertainty, this opinion should not be interpreted as a major stumbling block to key energy and infrastructure projects.

Continue reading “ERA Revisited: Solutions For Navigating An Uncertain Legal Landscape”