House Passes Two Bills Giving More Pipeline Permitting Authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

On July 19, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a pair of bills aimed at reforming natural gas and oil pipeline permitting, and granting additional authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”).  Both bills passed on largely party-line votes.  The two bills are H.R. 2883, Promoting Cross-Border Energy Infrastructure Act, and H.R. 2910, Promoting Interagency Coordination for Review of Natural Gas Pipelines Act.  H.R. 2883, removes the current requirement that gas and oil pipelines, as well as electric transmission projects, obtain a Presidential Permit to cross an international border.  Instead, pipelines would obtain a certificate of crossing from FERC and transmission projects would obtain such a certificate from the Department of Energy.  If enacted into law, this change would mark a significant change for oil pipeline projects.  FERC currently has no authority over any aspect of interstate oil pipeline siting.  Currently, all siting decisions not on federal lands are handled at the state level, with international border crossings overseen by the State Department through the presidential permit process.  FERC does, however, oversee the siting of interstate natural gas pipelines, including Presidential Permits for international border crossings, under current law.


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Stakeholders Assess the Effects of the Changing Mix of U.S. Energy Resources

In anticipation of the Department of Energy’s review of the nation’s power grid, stakeholder groups have recently published reports on the state of the U.S. power grid.  The reports add to the debate over what mix of energy resources are needed to sustain a stable, secure and reliable supply of electricity in the United States.

An April 14, 2017 memo from Energy Secretary Rick Perry directing the Energy Department to “explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid” has focused the debate.  According to Secretary Perry, the 60-day review would assess whether federal policies have caused “the erosion of critical baseload resources.”  This includes an assessment of whether reduced coal-fired power generation due “in part from regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations” has hurt the supply of baseload power and will “undercut the performance of the grid well into the future.”  (more…)

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Energy Enforcement Update

This enforcement update covers:

  • FERC and Department of Energy nominees clear Senate committee;
  • District court dismisses oil price manipulation complaints against multiple energy companies;
  • Barclays and FERC file Second Amended Joint Status Report and Court schedules settlement conference;
  • Fifth Circuit affirms dismissal of TOTAL’s declaratory judgment action against FERC;
  • Supreme Court limits SEC disgorgement to 5-year statute of limitations;
  • Kraft Foods moves to compel documents from CFTC; and
  • Fifth Circuit vacates judgment involving overly broad privilege standard and related protective order.


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Energy Enforcement Update

Politico Morning Energy reported this morning FERC WAIT MAY BE COMING TO AN END—“an informed tipster tells ME that those names — Neil Chatterjee, Robert Powelson and Kevin McIntyre — are expected to become official within in the next week.”  FERC has been without a quorum for nearly two months, hamstringing its ability to act on contested gas and electric rate filings, and infrastructure projects.  Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski has vowed to prioritize FERC nominees before her panel once the White House releases them, but getting them confirmed will likely still take several weeks, notwithstanding the two-week recess next month.

This week’s enforcement update covers:

  • Department of Energy scrutinizing natural gas import and export reporting;
  • Judge in Powhatan/Chen proceeding grants leave to file amicus brief on de novo review;
  • Judge in ETRACOM case rules that “de novo review” means an ordinary civil action;
  • TOTAL responds to plaintiffs in class action proceeding;
  • Wyoming Pipeline Authority files then withdraws request for rehearing of FERC delegation order; and
  • Sidley to host roundtable on FERC energy and capacity market technical conference.


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Secretary of Energy Moniz provides insights on the Obama Administration’s energy legacy and importance of national laboratories at National Press Club

On Wednesday, January 11, 2017, outbound Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in what he said was his final major speaking appearance in the capital city. Secretary Moniz emphasized the importance of the U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories and Technology Centers, and the many research and development accomplishes of the Obama administration, of which he was a part for nearly the last four years.