On July 19, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that debtors in bankruptcy may reject regulated energy contracts, vacating two Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) orders to the contrary, in Gulfport Energy Corp. v. FERC. The question turned on how a party’s ability to reject executory contracts in bankruptcy interacts with FERC’s ability to determine whether a party can abrogate or modify contracts that constitute filed rates under a doctrine referred to as Mobile-Sierra. The court found that FERC cannot use its Natural Gas Act authority over contract abrogation and modification to countermand a debtor’s bankruptcy-law rights or the bankruptcy court’s powers.
On June 14, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finding of jurisdiction over New Fortress Energy LLC’s (New Fortress) liquified natural gas (LNG) import terminal facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in New Fortress Energy Inc. v. FERC. (more…)
The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected to issue an order later this month that could influence the development of “responsibly sourced natural gas” (RSG), natural gas certified by a qualified third party as meeting certain performance and operational criteria. Some in the energy industry have touted RSG as a way to meet net-zero and lower carbon emissions goals. (more…)
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced on March 24, 2022, that it will delay enacting any changes to its existing policies on the authorization or certification of interstate natural gas pipeline infrastructure under Sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act. Two policy statements FERC issued on February 18, 2022, in Docket No. PL18-1 and Docket No. PL21-3 (collectively, the 2022 Certificate Policy Statements) have now been deemed “drafts” that are subject to further comment. Initial comments will be due on April 25, 2022, with reply comments due on May 25, 2022. One of the two policy statements, which had been deemed “interim” but given immediate legal effect on February 18 prior to being relabeled a “draft” on March 24, had an initial comment date of April 4, 2022, which has now been extended to the aforementioned dates. Sidley provided a detailed summary of the changes implemented in the 2022 Certificate Policy Statements in a prior client alert and Energy Brief. (more…)
On February 18, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) announced for the first time that it will consider a proposed natural gas infrastructure project’s impact on climate change as part of its public interest determination under sections 3 and 7 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). A proposed project’s environmental effects, including reasonably foreseeable greenhouse gas emissions that may be attributable to the project and the project’s impact on environmental justice communities, now will become part of FERC’s balancing test for whether a project is: (1) required by the public convenience and necessity (“PCN”) under NGA section 7; (2) or in the public interest under NGA section 3. FERC’s prior PCN policy prioritized economic factors to define public need. Environmental effects, while considered under the NGA, were addressed primarily under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). (more…)
On May 19, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order dismissing rehearing requests (Dismissal Order) of its February 18, 2021, Order Establishing Briefing in Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Docket No. CP16-9-012) (Briefing Order). The Briefing Order had found that concerns raised regarding the operation of a compressor station that FERC had authorized to place into service on September 24, 2020, warranted further consideration. FERC set the matter for a paper hearing, with deadlines established for initial and reply briefs. The Briefing Order drew fierce criticism in dissents by Commissioners Mark Christie and James Danly on grounds that FERC was acting outside of its statutory authority and resulted in over 100 comments and briefs filed by a diverse group of pipeline industry members and advocates, environmental nongovernmental organizations and consumer groups, and former FERC commissioners as well as requests for rehearing by the affected pipeline and four individual trade associations representing pipeline operators, investors, and shippers.
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued Order No. 871-B, an Order Limiting Authorizations to Proceed with Construction Activities. The order revises FERC regulations at 18 C.F.R. § 157.23(b) enacted in July 2020 following the issuance of Order No. 871.
The regulation now prohibits authorizations to proceed with construction for pipeline or liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal facilities from issuing if a timely request for rehearing of a certificate order has been filed specifically opposing project construction, operation, or need until (1) the request is no longer pending before FERC, (2) the record of the proceeding has been filed with the court of appeals, or (3) 90 days have passed after the date that the request for rehearing may be deemed to have been denied under the Natural Gas Act’s (NGA) rehearing provisions at 15 U.S.C. § 717r(a).
On March 22, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) for the first time issued an order that assessed whether greenhouse gas emissions related to a natural gas pipeline certificate project would significantly contribute to climate change. FERC purported to perform the assessment pursuant to its obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to take a “hard look” at a project’s environmental impacts.
On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reopened the comment period for its Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on the Certification of New Interstate Natural Gas Facilities. FERC applies its current policy, issued in 1999, to assess whether to issue interstate natural gas transportation facilities a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), a foundational permit required for their construction and operation. FERC must abide with its obligations under the Natural Gas Act and National Environmental Policy Act when considering pipeline certificate applications. FERC initially issued the NOI in April 2018, seeking comment on whether, and if so how, it should revise its approach to evaluating CPCN applications. The docket has been pending for nearly three years.
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.