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.
1 – Make-up of FERC Commissioners – FERC’s leadership already was uncertain heading into 2019 before the tragic passing of Commissioner and former Chairman Kevin McIntyre on January 3, 2019. Prior to his passing, the Commission achieved a full complement of five commissioners in December 2018, following the confirmation of Bernard McNamee who filled a spot made vacant by the August 2018 resignation of former Commissioner Robert Powelson. Commissioner McNamee is facing calls to recuse himself from certain FERC electric generation proceedings given positions he took on grid resiliency in his prior position at the Department of Energy, and he is certain to be scrutinized by environmental groups for positions he is anticipated to take on pipeline matters as a FERC commissioner. (more…)
On November 15, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a rulemaking to revise its regulations relating to mergers or consolidations by a public utility. See Implementation of Amended Section 203(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Power Act, 165 FERC ¶ 61,091 (2018). These regulations would implement a law signed on September 28, 2018 establishing a $10 million threshold on transactions that will be subject to FERC’s review and authorization under section 203(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Power Act (FPA). Previously, there was no dollar value threshold for FERC review of public utility “merge or consolidate” transactions under FPA section 203(a)(1)(B). See 16 U.S.C. § 824b(a)(1)(B). (more…)