Thursday’s assembly of the Federal Power Regulatory Fee began off with expressions of comity between its three commissioners. It ended with one other spherical of dissents from its sole Democrat, warning of authorized challenges to FERC choices authorized by its Republican majority over his objections.
Questions of political stress on the avowedly nonpartisan company have swirled round FERC over the previous weeks, after the Trump administration demoted Neil Chatterjee from his two-year tenure as FERC chairman to nominate fellow Republican James Danly to the management place.
However Chatterjee was gracious to Danly in welcoming him as chair, and thanked Democrat Richard Glick for locating “widespread floor” amidst “our fair proportion of political disagreements.” He additionally congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their election victory, making him one of many few Trump-appointed federal officers to take action.
Glick, in flip, famous that he’s had a “excellent and open stage of debate” together with his Republican colleagues, regardless of their disputes.
Glick was much less sparing, nonetheless, in his dissents relating to two choices to disclaim pleas from states and clear power teams to rethink two key FERC choices — one making use of to federally regulated wholesale power markets in New England, and one other to wash power services competing in states with vertically built-in utility regulatory constructions.
Glick, who is taken into account a possible decide to chair FERC below the incoming Biden administration, mentioned each choices can have a destructive impression on clear power sources, and famous that Thursday’s choices each are open to authorized challenges in federal courtroom.
ISO New England’s CASPR coverage, and FERC’s impression on capability markets
The primary is a denial of rehearing for a New England capability market construction authorized by FERC on a party-line vote in March 2018, which has since been attacked by governors and U.S. senators representing New England states as a menace to carrying out their clear power coverage targets.
That’s as a result of the Aggressive Auctions with Sponsored Coverage Assets (CASPR) coverage restricts state-subsidized, carbon-free sources like photo voltaic and wind energy in how they’ll take part within the ahead capability market.
Glick echoed views from clear power advocates and New England state attorneys common that the CASPR construction “has the impact of impeding state clear power insurance policies and unnecessarily elevating capability costs.”
“There are a variety of issues unsuitable with as we speak’s order, not the least of which is the truth that the fee waited two and a half years to listen to it,” Glick added relating to the choice to disclaim rehearing. “That’s regulatory negligence.”
The Sierra Membership, Pure Assets Protection Council, Renew Northeast and the Conservation Legislation Basis have already appealed FERC’s choice to the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Ari Peskoe, director of the Electrical energy Legislation Initiative at Harvard College, famous that FERC’s subsequent actions to impose much more problematic restrictions on state-subsidized sources within the capability market of mid-Atlantic grid operator PJM could strengthen authorized challenges to ISO-NE’s CASPR assemble.
“One of many key authorized points in each proceedings is FERC’s authority to deal with state insurance policies,” he wrote in a Thursday e-mail. “FERC went farther in PJM, and maybe clear power pursuits will be capable to make extra convincing arguments based mostly on these details.”
PURPA rule adjustments face challenges from photo voltaic teams
Glick additionally dissented to FERC’s choice to disclaim rehearing of its June order altering the foundations utilized to impartial power tasks below the Public Utilities Regulatory Insurance policies Act (PURPA). These adjustments, handed by FERC’s Republican majority towards Glick’s no vote, will permit states to change the contracts and cost constructions that information how utilities pay for energy from independently owned tasks, in ways in which clear power teams say might undermine their worth.
Glick argued Thursday that FERC’s actions on PURPA had been pushed by utilities and states that wish to make it tougher for impartial builders to construct tasks in vertically built-in power market. States have leeway in how PURPA is utilized inside their borders, and a few equivalent to North Carolina have handed legal guidelines to change contract phrases in ways in which scale back compensation for qualifying services (QFs).
However different states have seen comparable legislative efforts fail, and “these events got here to FERC to realize what they couldn’t obtain by way of laws,” Glick argued. “These are issues for elected officers and Congress to determine.”
The Photo voltaic Power Industries Affiliation has already taken steps to problem the legality of FERC’s PURPA order within the ninth U.S. Circuit Courtroom of Appeals, and is “assured in the long run that the courtroom will conclude that this order represents an try and tip the scales in favor of monopoly pursuits, forgoing substantial value financial savings,” Sean Gallagher, the commerce group’s vice chairman of state affairs, wrote in a Thursday e-mail. “The fee’s assault on PURPA is an assault on competitors and offers one other coverage present to incumbent utilities on the expense of shoppers.”