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Washington Week: FERC to meet, Democrats push vote on EPA carbon rule repeal


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Washington Week: FERC to meet, Democrats push vote on EPA carbon rule repeal

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has a busy agenda teed up for its next monthly open meeting on Oct. 17, including items on regional grid operators' energy storage plans and proposed certifications for two natural gas pipeline projects.

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AES Corp.'s 30 MW Escondido battery storage project in California. FERC on Oct. 17 will take action on proposals from two U.S. regional grid operators to enable greater participation of energy storage resources in their markets.

Source: AES Corp.

The commission will take up Order 841 compliance filings from the PJM Interconnection (FERC docket ER19-469) and the Southwest Power Pool (ER19-460). The grid operators have been waiting on FERC to act on their plans to comply with the order, a rule finalized in February 2018 that directed regional transmission organizations and independent system operators to create market rules that accommodate storage resources in their energy, capacity and ancillary services markets.

Both agenda items, however, are accompanied by new "EL" docket prefixes that could mean the commission needs to take a closer look at the PJM and SPP proposals before making a decision.

The agenda also includes "EL" proceedings for PJM, SPP and ISO New England, indicating that the commission has initiated action under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act to address some aspect of the grid operators' markets.

Other electricity dockets on the FERC meeting agenda include ER17-2201, which involves Public Citizen's request that an Exelon Corp. subsidiary not be allowed to sell power at market-based rates because a New York zero-emissions credit program gives the company too much market power; EL18-61, which pertains to PJM's lobbying payments and campaign contributions; and a potential order on a PJM proposal (EL14-37) to adjust its financial transmission rights forfeiture rule.

Turning to gas items, the commission listed two dockets for significant pipeline projects — Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC's Southeastern Trail natural gas transportation expansion project (CP18-186) to serve mid-Atlantic and Southeastern markets, and Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America LLC's Lockridge Extension (CP19-52) in the Permian Basin of West Texas.

But no LNG terminal items are on the meeting agenda despite industry pressure for FERC to issue permit decisions on project proposals for the Brownsville Ship Channel in Texas.

Also at the Oct. 17 meeting, FERC staff will provide its energy market assessment for the 2019-2020 winter.

Democrats mount attack on Trump power plant rule

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., announced Oct. 10 that they will invoke powers under the Congressional Review Act to force a vote on reversing the Trump administration's Affordable Clean Energy, or ACE, rule for regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The ACE rule, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized in June, replaced the Obama administration's more expansive Clean Power Plan completed in 2015.

Schumer and Cardin said they will force a majority-threshold vote on the disapproval resolution during the week of Oct. 14. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress can review and overturn executive branch regulations within 60 legislative days of the rule being finalized. Disapproval resolutions under the act only need approval from a simple majority to pass and require only 30 members' signatures to be scheduled for a vote.

Republicans, who hold a 53-47 Senate majority, have largely supported the ACE rule, making Senate passage of the disapproval resolution unlikely. But Schumer said the vote will be the first in a series of roll call votes that Senate Democrats are planning in October to highlight how Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., "has turned the upper chamber into a legislative graveyard for priorities of the American people."

White House moves to curb use agency guidance

President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders Oct. 9 that seek to limit federal agencies' use of guidance documents, letters, technical memos and other informal actions to implement regulations and carry out enforcement action.

One of the orders will give agencies the chance to throw out regulatory guidance they believe is no longer needed and directed regulators to come up with rules allowing for public notice and comment on new guidance, as well as post all guidance documents online. The other mandate requires agencies to establish procedures for self-reporting of regulatory violations and for reducing penalties when covered entities self-report.

Karen Bennett, co-chair of the environmental and administrative law practice at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, said the orders could result in more transparency for industry on how agencies implement and enforce regulations, including what methodologies the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses to determine the environmental impacts of coal mining projects in certain regions.

But the directives could "cut both ways," Bennett added, by potentially slowing down the process of agencies and companies working together to resolve permitting and other issues if additional reporting and notice-and-comment periods are required.

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US Congress
Oct. 16

The House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing on "Public-Private Initiatives to Secure the Supply Chain." Witnesses include Bob Kolasky, Assistant Director of the National Risk Management Center at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Oct. 17

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the status of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and related energy security issues.

Oct. 17

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis will hold a hearing on "Cleaner, Stronger Buildings."

Oct. 17

The House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources' Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing on "The Case for Climate Optimism: Realistic Pathways to Achieving Net-Zero Emissions."

Oct. 17

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works' Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety will hold a hearing on "Reducing Emissions while Driving Economic Growth: Industry-led Initiatives."

Federal agencies
Oct. 17

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will hold its monthly open meeting at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Industry events

Oct. 14-18

Nuclear Science Week will take place on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 15-16

The Energy Bar Association will host its Mid-Year Energy Forum in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 16-17

The Advanced Energy Economy will host its first annual western regional energy policy conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Oct. 17

The American Council on Renewable Energy's Renewable Energy Grid Forum will take place in San Francisco.

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Nuclear is too slow, costly to stop climate change, says status report

Appeals court upholds ruling DOE must publish long-delayed efficiency standards