On April 2, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) implemented sweeping changes to its Office of Enforcement, issued a Policy Statement, and took additional steps to provide guidance on energy infrastructure, market, reliability, and security matters during the coronavirus emergency.
Temporary Changes to Enforcement Program
Chairman Neil Chatterjee announced that FERC’s Office of Enforcement will be exercising prosecutorial discretion regarding enforcement events arising during the pandemic. Enforcement staff will take the coronavirus emergency into account when assessing the timeliness of self-reports, including the self-report credit under the Penalty Guidelines. Compliance program evaluation under the Penalty Guidelines will similarly be adjusted, as well as audits for operations taking place during the emergency. Additional changes to FERC’s Office of Enforcement include:
- Entities with compliance obligations arising from completed enforcement cases will have flexibility for discovery-related or other deadlines through July 31, 2020.
- No new audits will commence until July 31, 2020.
- Enforcement staff will only contact entities regarding surveillance inquiries that involve market behavior likely to result in significant harm to the market. Inquiries not requiring immediate attention will be postponed to a later date.
- The deadline for FERC Form Nos. 552, 60, 61, as well as Electric Quarterly Reports (EQRs) has been extended to June 1, 2020.
- The submission of self-reports regarding inadvertent errors or activity producing no significant harm to the market may be delayed by 60 days.
Additionally, Chairman Chatterjee announced the creation of two FERC staff task forces to expeditiously process standards of conduct waiver requests and no-action letters.
Policy Statement on Business Continuity of Energy Infrastructure
FERC issued a Policy Statement announcing that it will expeditiously review and act on requests for relief in response to the coronavirus national emergency. FERC recognizes that regulated entities have had to implement new procedures, update and/or suspend existing procedures, and take other measures to adjust to the national emergency. As such, FERC’s highest priority will be given to processing filings made for the purpose of ensuring business continuity of regulated entities’ energy infrastructure, including acting on requests for relief such as cost recovery necessary to ensure business continuity.
FERC took additional steps to provide regulatory relief, including the following:
- Issued order approving blanket waiver of tariff requirements for in-person meetings, as well as requirements to provide notarized documents on a temporary basis through September 1, 2020
- Issued order temporarily delegating authority to:
- The Director of the Office of Energy Market Regulation to act on uncontested requests for prospective waiver of certain regulatory obligations through June 1, 2020
- The Director of FERC’s Office of Energy Policy and Innovation to act on motions for extension of time to file, or requests or petitions for waiver of the requirements of FERC Form No. 552 and FERC-730
- Issued order extending time period for ISO/RTOs to post Uplift Reports to October 20, 2020
In addition, the FERC secretary issued a supplemental notice granting time extensions for certain non-statutory deadlines and shortening answer periods for motions for extensions of time.