Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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The DC Circuit granted ANR's petition for review challenging FERC's decision refusing to allow ANR to charge market-based rates, as opposed to cost-based rates, for its natural gas storage services. The court held that FERC acted arbitrarily and capriciously because it did not provide any reasonable justification for allowing DTE affiliates but not ANR to charge market-based rates. Furthermore, FERC's market-power analysis was internally inconsistent. The court also held that ANR's remaining contentions lacked merit. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "ANR Storage Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Coal residuals, “one of the largest industrial waste streams,” contain myriad carcinogens and neurotoxins. Power plants generally store it on site in aging piles or pools, risking protracted leakage and catastrophic structural failure. Regulations implementing the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901, were long delayed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), facing public outrage over catastrophic failures at toxic coal residual sites, and directed by a federal court to comply with its obligations under RCRA, promulgated its first Final Rule regulating coal residuals in 2015, 80 Fed. Reg. 21,302. Opponents challenged that Rule under the Administrative Procedure Act and RCRA, which requires EPA to promulgate criteria distinguishing permissible “sanitary landfills” from prohibited “open dumps.” Each claim relates to how coal residuals disposal sites qualify as sanitary landfills. EPA announced its intent to reconsider the Rule. The D.C. Circuit denied the EPA’s abeyance motion; remanded as to pile-size and beneficial-use issues; vacated 40 C.F.R. 257.101, which allows for the continued operation of unlined impoundments and a provision that treats “clay-lined” units as if they were lined; found the Rule’s “legacy ponds” exemption unreasoned and arbitrary; rejected claims by industry members that EPA may regulate only active impoundments; found that EPA provided sufficient notice of its intention to apply aquifer location criteria to existing impoundments; and held that EPA did not arbitrarily issue location requirements based on seismic impact zones nor arbitrarily impose temporary closure procedures. View "Utility Solid Waste Activities v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that FERC did not adequately justify its approval of the tariff amendment at issue here, which prohibited cost sharing for a category of high-voltage projects conceded to have significant regional benefits, and which did so only because those projects reflected the planning criteria of individual utilities. The court granted the petitions for review, holding that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the tariff amendment and applying it to the Elmont-Cunningham and Cunningham-Dooms projects. The court set aside the orders under review to the extent that they approved the amendment and applied it to the two projects, and remand for further proceedings View "Old Dominion Electric Coop. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging FERC's orders approving an exemption to the minimum offer price rule in the ISO New England forward capacity market for a limited amount of qualifying renewable energy. The court held that FERC engaged in reasoned decisionmaking to find that the renewable exemption to the minimum offer price rule resulted in a just and reasonable rate. The court also held that FERC did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioners' request for a hearing and the Commission did not abuse its discretion by relying on the written record to resolve disputes of material fact. View "NextEra Energy Resources, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged FERC's refund order in a cost-allocation case where the agency found that the rate-distribution methodology was unjust and unreasonable. FERC ordered refunds to customers who paid too much, funded by surcharges on customers who paid too little. The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review and held that the reallocation at issue did not constitute an impermissible retroactive rate increase where FERC reasonably determined that the prior rate methodology was unjust and unreasonable, and its reliance on certain evidence in reaching this conclusion was appropriate. FERC had authority to order refunds and corresponding surcharges under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act and its broad remedial authority under Section 309, because it had established that the existing rate was unjust and unreasonable, and that a different methodology would comply with cost-causation principles. View "Verso Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged FERC's failure to account for the effect on electricity prices of the permanent retirement of the Brayton Point Power Station, a coal-fired electric plant in Somerset, Massachusetts. Petitioners alleged that the closure was an attempt to manipulate the results of forward capacity auction (FCA 8). The DC Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition in the absence of final agency action. In two later proceedings, petitioners asked FERC to correct for what they assert were effects of Brayton Point’s illegal closure on the next two annual forward capacity auctions (FCA 9 and FCA 10). FERC denied the petitions and approved FCA 9 and FCA 10 results. The court held that petitioners lacked standing to challenge FERC's acceptance of the FCA 9 and FCA 10 results because no record evidence established a causal link between the claimed manipulative closure of Brayton Point and the clearing prices of FCA 9 and FCA 10 that FERC approved. View "Utility Workers Union of America Local 464 v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Once the NRC determines there is a significant deficiency in its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, it may not permit a project to continue in a manner that puts at risk the values NEPA protects simply because no intervenor can show irreparable harm.The DC Circuit granted a petition for review in part of the Commission's grant of a license to Powertech to construct a uranium mining project in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The court held that the Commission's decision violated NEPA where the Commission conditioned enforcement of NEPA on a showing of irreparable harm by the Tribe, but lacked an adequate environmental analysis when it first issued the license and the significant NEPA deficiencies identified by the Board remained unaddressed at the time of the Commission's decision. The court further held that it did not have jurisdiction to review the bulk of the rulings challenged by the Tribe because the Commission's order did not end the agency proceedings as to all issues. View "Oglala Sioux Tribe v. NRC" on Justia Law

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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Order 1000 encourages the development of “interregional” electricity transmission projects, calling for regional providers to jointly evaluate interregional projects. Poviders must adopt cost-allocation methodologies for dividing up the costs of a joint project to assure that the relative costs borne by a particular transmission provider be commensurate with the relative benefits gained by the provider. MISO, which operates transmission facilities on behalf of providers across 15 midwestern states, proposed to conduct cost allocation for interregional projects using a “cost-avoidance” method. The share of costs allocated to MISO under that method corresponds to the benefits to MISO of its regional projects that would be displaced by the interregional project. In identifying which regional projects should be regarded as displaced, MISO proposed to exclude any project that had already been approved by the MISO board. The Commission rejected MISO’s cost-allocation approach, reasoning that excluding approved regional projects would fail to account for the full potential benefits of an interregional project. The D.C. Circuit denied a petition for review. Although MISO had standing and its claims were ripe, one claim was not properly presented to the agency in a request for rehearing. On the merits of the other claims, the court held that the Commission adequately responded to concerns about the possible effects of including approved regional projects in the cost-allocation calculation. View "Ameren Services Co. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied Duke's petition for review of the Commission's denial of Duke's complaint against PJM under the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 825e. To prepare for a bitterly cold day during the January 2014 polar vortex, Duke purchased expensive natural gas which it ended up not needing. Duke then claimed that PJM, its regional transmission organization, directed it to purchase the gas and that the governing tariff provided for indemnification. The court held that the Commission's finding that PJM never directed Duke to buy gas was supported by substantial evidence on the record. Therefore, the court had no need to address Duke's remaining argument that, had such a directive been issued, the tariff would have authorized indemnification. View "Duke Energy Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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After Old Dominion found that its operational costs during the January 2014 polar vortex outstripped the amounts it could charge for electricity under the governing tariff, it asked the Commission to waive provisions of the governing tariff retroactively so that it could recover its costs. The DC Circuit denied Old Dominion's petition for review of the Commission's denial of Old Dominion's request based on the ground that such retroactive charges would violate the filed rate doctrine and the rule against retroactive ratemaking. In this case, the court afforded the Commission's interpretation of the filed tariff and the PJM Operating Agreement substantial deference where there was no dispute that the PJM Tariff's filed rate did not allow the cost recovery that Old Dominion sought. The court also denied the motion of Independent Market Monitor to intervene, but accorded it amicus curiae status. View "Old Dominion Electric Cooperative v. FERC" on Justia Law