FERC requests more time on Perry grid proposal

Source: Sam Mintz, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 11, 2017

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Kevin McIntyre asked the Department of Energy yesterday for 30 more days to review DOE’s controversial grid-pricing proposal.

Acting in the immediate wake of his swearing in as FERC chief, McIntyre requested that DOE give the commission a month beyond the original Dec. 11 deadline to work on the plan, citing a high volume of comments and his and Democrat Richard Glick’s recent arrivals on the five-member commission.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal would change the rules in certain electricity markets to compensate coal and nuclear power plants that he argues are necessary for ensuring grid reliability.

In his letter to Perry yesterday, McIntyre wrote, “The proposed extension is critical to afford adequate time for the new Commissioners to consider the voluminous record and engage fully in deliberations.”

DOE said today the department was reviewing McIntyre’s letter.

It’s not clear what would happen if DOE rejects FERC’s request.

“It seems like FERC is being courteous to DOE,” said Ari Peskoe, a senior fellow in electricity law at Harvard University. “I don’t think FERC had to accept DOE’s initial timeline. FERC could have extended it any point.”

Joel Eisen, an energy, administrative and environmental law professor at the University of Richmond, said on Twitter that the last time DOE used this process to push for FERC action was in 1986, when the independent commission responded 17 days after a DOE “deadline.”

“Statute only requires FERC response ‘in an expeditious manner in accordance with’ DOE time limit,” he wrote.

The delay also doesn’t solve potential legal problems with the way the process has played out, primarily with a shortened public comment period. Some critics of the plan have argued allowing three weeks for public feedback wasn’t sufficient under federal administrative law.

“FERC can’t fix that now,” Peskoe said.

Many analysts say the DOE notice of proposed rulemaking, or NOPR, isn’t going anywhere fast.

“I’m not expecting adoption of the NOPR, which I believe is consensus,” said Rob Rains, an energy specialist at Washington Analysis LLC.

Paul Bledsoe, an American University lecturer and former Clinton administration climate adviser, took it one step further.

“One thing seems clear: The NOPR as Perry proposed it is a dead letter,” said Bledsoe. “That may have been true before McIntyre was sworn in, but it is definitely true now.”

There is reportedly a plan being assembled by FERC Commissioners Robert Powelson and Cheryl LaFleur that would give grid operators 90 days to report back on the resilience of their systems.

Todd Snitchler, head of market development at the American Petroleum Institute, which opposes the proposal, said his trade group is not planning any formal action during the month extension.

“At this point, the record has been established, unless there’s some other request for information, which I don’t think will be the case,” he said.

More than 1,500 comments have been submitted to the FERC docket for the rulemaking.