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New FERC chair seeks 30-day extension to act on DOE proposed rule

Having been sworn in earlier the same day as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and facing a Dec. 11 deadline to act on a Department of Energy-proposal to provide more money to struggling nuclear and coal-fired generating units, Kevin McIntyre on Dec. 7 asked for 30 more days to act on that proposal.

"To date, the commission has received over 1,500 submissions. In addition, the commission has sworn in two new members within the last two weeks. The proposed extension is critical to afford adequate time for the new commissioners to consider the voluminous record and engage fully in deliberations," McIntyre wrote in a letter addressed to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

The DOE in September asked FERC to adopt a proposed rule aimed at preventing the further retirement of certain coal-fired and nuclear generating resources by recognizing and compensating them for their "fuel secure" nature. The proposal was panned by many who insisted that it is unnecessary, will distort the markets and is discriminatory because it favors certain types of generation resources over others. But coal and nuclear power supporters see it as necessary to prevent the plants from retiring prematurely due to faulty market rules.

Despite the controversy and the large number of comments submitted on the DOE proposal, temporary chairman Neil Chatterjee had indicated FERC was committed to act on the proposal, at least in some way, by a DOE-imposed deadline of Dec. 11.

In seeking a deadline extension, McIntyre noted that the federal statute — Section 403{b) of the DOE Act under which DOE directed FERC to "take final action" on the proposal requires DOE to set "reasonable time limits" for taking such action. He further recalled that the DOE Act "does not limit the means by which deadlines can be altered or amended but instead vests such determinations squarely in the discretion of the Secretary."

"I respectfully request that you grant the proposed extension and arrange for publication of your decision in the Federal Register at the earliest possible opportunity," McIntyre concluded. (FERC docket RM18-1)