U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Approves First Small Modular Reactor Design

On August 28, 2020, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the first-ever design certification application for a small modular reactor (SMR) through its issuance of a final safety evaluation report that outlines the agency’s multiyear, six-phased technical review. The agency approval represents a milestone for the U.S. nuclear sector and advanced nuclear technologies.

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Can the Yellow School Bus Go Green?

The Promise and Regulatory Challenges of Vehicle-to-Grid Technology

The classic yellow school bus is turning green. Electric buses may continue to grow in popularity, and the so-called “vehicle-to-grid” technology enables the new buses to both store and draw power. Listen to our latest episode of The Sidley Podcast for more on the subject, including:

  • How the innovative vehicle-to-grid technology is implemented
  • Who benefits from a business or an operational perspective
  • The regulatory obstacles to setting it in motion around the country

Join host and Sidley partner, Sam Gandhi, as he speaks with one of Sidley’s thought leaders on the subject, Ken Irvin, co-leader of Sidley’s global Energy practice, who represents clients on matters involving the wholesale electricity and gas markets. Ken has extensive experience representing businesses in investigations and regulatory proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

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D.C. Circuit Declares Tolling Orders Impermissible Under the Natural Gas Act

On June 30, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) ruled en banc 10-1 in Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC to invalidate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) common practice of issuing tolling orders to extend the time for deciding rehearing requests under the Natural Gas Act (NGA) beyond the 30-day deadline set forth in the statute. The court found that a tolling order, in which FERC “grants rehearing” for the limited purpose of affording it additional time to act on a rehearing request, does not constitute “action” upon the rehearing request as required by the NGA. The decision reversed the approximately 50-year old D.C. Circuit precedent upholding the tolling order practice as permissible. The court derided the practice as an unauthorized way for FERC to stall for time while precluding parties aggrieved by FERC orders from seeking judicial review.

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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Proposes Limiting Policy on Tariff Waivers

On May 21, 2020, FERC issued a policy statement to clarify its position regarding requests for waiver of tariff provisions.  If finalized, the Policy Statement would revise how FERC treats requests for waiver of tariff provisions.

The proposed policy relates to FERC’s statutory authority to review and approve public utility rates, as set forth in Federal Power Act (FPA) sections 205 and 206, and the parallel provisions in Natural Gas Act (NGA) sections 4 and 5.  FERC is concerned that its usual practice of waiving tariff provisions after the fact amounts to retroactive ratemaking in violation of the filed rate doctrine. (more…)

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FERC Issues Series of Orders Related to COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, Sidley is helping clients navigate the potential consequences to energy markets and attendant legal risks. The following frequently asked questions address actions by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on April 2, 2020 in response to the current market conditions. This document updates energy regulatory FAQs published by Sidley on March 20, 2020.

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FERC, NERC Provide Industry Guidance to Ensure Grid Reliability Amid Potential Coronavirus Impacts

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced yesterday they are taking steps to ensure that operators of the bulk electric system can focus their resources on keeping people safe and the lights on during this unprecedented public health emergency.

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Sidley Environmental Trends

Topics discussed this week include:

  • EPA proposes to decline to set CERCLA financial assurance rule for electric power industry.
  • D.C. Circuit upholds RCRA transfer-based exclusion.
  • EPA proposes renewable volume obligations for 2020.
  • EPA issues final enforcement policy on coordination with and delegation to states.

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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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