“According to FERC, it is now commonplace for states to use Section 401 to hold federal licensing hostage.”

These are the words the DC Circuit used in Hoopa Valley Tribe v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 14-1271, p. 10 (D.C. Cir., Jan. 25, 2019), to describe the state of play on § 401 certifications affecting hydroelectric facility licensing or re-licensing applications. CWA § 401(a)(1) requires, as a prerequisite for federal permits for activities that may result in a discharge into the navigable waters, that affected states certify that any such discharge will comply with applicable, enumerated provisions of the Clean Water Act. But, if a state fails or refuses to act on a request for certification within “a reasonable period of time (which shall not exceed one year) after receipt of such request,” the statute deems the certification requirements waived. Continue Reading Act or Waive: DC Circuit Construes CWA § 401’s One-Year Deadline for State Action Applications

On January 17, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) held its monthly open meeting. The first half of the meeting was dedicated to remembrances of Commissioner McIntyre, who passed away earlier this month. The Commission elected to name the Commission meeting room in his honor.

Highlights of the second half of the meeting included:

  • Investigation on Rates Charged by Three Interstate Pipeline Companies: Chairman Chatterjee highlighted the Commission’s initiation on January 16 of investigations pursuant to Section 5 of the Natural Gas Act of three interstate natural gas companies to determine if they are substantially over-recovering their costs of service, resulting in unjust and unreasonable rates. The investigations result from the Commission’s review of information submitted by these companies via FERC Form 501-G in response to the Commission’s Order No. 849 concerning the companies’ return on equity before and after the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 and changes to the Commission’s tax allowance policies in response to the DC Circuit’s United Airlines decision. The Commission simultaneously terminated nine natural gas rate proceedings finding that the pipelines complied with the Commission’s filing requirements. Chairman Chatterjee emphasized his commitment to ensure that the benefits of reduced taxes flow to consumers and to resolve the matters as soon as possible.

 

 

On December 20, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) held its December 2018 open meeting. This was the first meeting for Commissioner Bernard McNamee, who was confirmed by the Senate on December 6, 2018. Given his recent confirmation, Commissioner McNamee voted present on the consent agenda. Commissioner McIntyre was absent due to continuing health issues and did not vote on the consent agenda. Continue Reading FERC December 2018 Open Meeting Highlights

On November 15, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) held its monthly open meeting (November Meeting). This was the first meeting chaired by Chairman Chatterjee since replacing Commissioner McIntyre as chairman. Commissioner McIntyre was absent for his third consecutive open meeting due to continuing health issues and did not vote on the consent agenda. Continue Reading FERC November 2018 Open Meeting Highlights

The successful completion of major infrastructure construction projects often depends on the amount of time required for federal agencies to process environmental reviews and make authorization decisions. This is particularly true where multiple federal agencies are involved in the process and the decisions or timeliness of one can influence the decisions or timeliness of another. While numerous administrations have attempted to address multi-agency federal permitting processes in an effort to gain efficiencies, the Trump administration has taken significant steps to ensure that federal agencies work together in ways that will reduce the amount of time required to complete all environmental reviews and issue all required authorizations. Continue Reading PHMSA and FERC Commit to Permitting Process MOU

On July 10, 2018, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit rejected an environmental group’s claim that FERC’s funding mechanism results in unconstitutional bias in favor of the pipeline industry. The court also rebuffed a due process attack on the Commission’s use of “tolling orders” to avoid automatic denial of rehearing requests after 30 days. The decision is noteworthy as it represents the latest rejection of similar constitutional challenges to FERC’s operations and practices that pipeline opponents have been raising with increasing frequency. The ruling also highlights the difficulty of bypassing the Natural Gas Act’s administrative rehearing and judicial review process through novel broadside attacks on the Commission’s general practices and procedures.

See the full report on PipelineLaw.com.

On May 17, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) held its May 2018 open meeting. Highlights of the meeting include:

PURPA

In his opening remarks, Chairman McIntyre announced that the Commission would soon be turning to a review of its long-standing policies under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). He noted that the Commission had initiated a review of these policies in 2015-2016 and had held a technical conference on certain PURPA issues in 2016.  He has directed Commission staff to restart the initiative so the Commission can determine what, if anything, should be done to improve and update the policies.  The other commissioners were supportive of this initiative.  Commissioner Powelson pushed for an expedited review of the PURPA policies, referencing the previously developed record.  Commissioner Glick indicated that any changes to policies should address issues raised not only by industry, but also by qualifying facility developers.  The commissioners also acknowledged that more substantial changes to PURPA would have to be addressed by Congress. Continue Reading FERC May 2018 Open Meeting Highlights

Two notable developments in the past few weeks signal potential changes ahead to the policies and timeframes for pipeline approvals, particularly natural gas pipelines under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission oversight. These developments reflect both the increased public scrutiny of the pipeline approval process seen in recent years and the emphasis placed by the current administration on expediting review and approval of major infrastructure projects, two factors that are in some tension with each other.

See the full report on PipelineLaw.com.

On March 12, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order finding that delays by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) in reviewing Millennium Pipeline Company’s application for water quality certification constituted waiver of NYDEC’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Read the full report on PipelineLaw.com.