Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review of FERC's decision upholding charges assessed by the Southwest Power Pool. The court held that FERC's decision was not arbitrary and capricious and rejected Missouri River's argument that the tariff unambiguously confers carve-out eligibility on its transmission reservation under the 1977 Contract; rejected Missouri River's argument that FERC improperly changed course by relying on extrinsic evidence in this case; and rejected Missouri River's undue discrimination claim. The court also held that there was no reason to reject FERC's conclusion that the congestion and marginal loss charges paid for new services not provided for in the 1977 Contract. Finally, the court rejected Missouri River's argument, to the extent it was not forfeited, that the Pool should be equitably estopped from imposing congestion and marginal loss charges against Missouri River. View "Missouri River Energy Services v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of FERC's orders finding that California and Oregon had not waived their water quality certification authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and that PacifiCorp had diligently prosecuted its relicensing application for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. At issue was whether states waive Section 401 authority by deferring review and agreeing with a licensee to treat repeatedly withdrawn and resubmitted water quality certification requests as new requests. The court held that the withdrawal-and-resubmission of water quality certification requests did not trigger new statutory periods of review. Therefore, California and Oregon have waived their Section 401 authority with regard to the Project. Furthermore, the court disagreed that a finding of waiver was futile. View "Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied North Carolina's petition for review of FERC's orders involving the relicensing of the Yadkin Hydroelectric Project No. 2197. North Carolina alleged that the license applicant, Alcoa, misrepresented its plans to discontinue the use of project power for industrial production at Badin Works, a major source of employment in the state. The court held that substantial evidence supported FERC's decision and contradicted the existence of any deficiencies or deception in Alcoa's application. In this case, Alcoa disclosed the curtailment of industrial production at Badin Works every step of the way, from its initial filing of intent to relicense, through its various correspondences with FERC, to the license application itself. Furthermore, nothing in the record demonstrated that Alcoa had any nefarious intent to deceive FERC or the public at large. The court also held that North Carolina's recapture proposal lacked any basis in the law. Finally, the court held that, while the loss of jobs caused by the permanent closure of Badin Works did affect public interest, FERC had already accounted for its impact. View "North Carolina v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied SDG&E's petition for review of FERC's declaratory order applying FERC's cancelled or abandoned electricity transmission facilities incentive, 18 C.F.R. 35.35(d)(1)(vi) (Abandonment Incentive), only prospectively, to investments that had yet to occur. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the court agreed with the Commission's finding that SDG&E failed to establish the requisite nexus between the Abandonment Incentive and costs it already incurred before it obtained the declaratory order. The court held that the Commission's finding was supported by substantial evidence and its approach comported with both the Federal Power Act and the Incentive Rule. Furthermore, the court found SDG&E's several objections unpersuasive. View "San Diego Gas & Electric Co v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, owner of a number of electric generation resources in New England, challenged FERC's adoption of changes to the Transmission, Markets, and Services Tariff proposed by the Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE). The DC Circuit held that the parties' dispute may be illusory and thus remanded the record for the agency to sort out what it really means. In this case, at oral argument, counsel for FERC suggested that FERC interpreted the tariff rules in a way that largely squares with Exelon's view of its rights. View "Exelon Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted ANR's petition for review challenging FERC's decision refusing to allow ANR to charge market-based rates, as opposed to cost-based rates, for its natural gas storage services. The court held that FERC acted arbitrarily and capriciously because it did not provide any reasonable justification for allowing DTE affiliates but not ANR to charge market-based rates. Furthermore, FERC's market-power analysis was internally inconsistent. The court also held that ANR's remaining contentions lacked merit. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "ANR Storage Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Coal residuals, “one of the largest industrial waste streams,” contain myriad carcinogens and neurotoxins. Power plants generally store it on site in aging piles or pools, risking protracted leakage and catastrophic structural failure. Regulations implementing the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901, were long delayed. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), facing public outrage over catastrophic failures at toxic coal residual sites, and directed by a federal court to comply with its obligations under RCRA, promulgated its first Final Rule regulating coal residuals in 2015, 80 Fed. Reg. 21,302. Opponents challenged that Rule under the Administrative Procedure Act and RCRA, which requires EPA to promulgate criteria distinguishing permissible “sanitary landfills” from prohibited “open dumps.” Each claim relates to how coal residuals disposal sites qualify as sanitary landfills. EPA announced its intent to reconsider the Rule. The D.C. Circuit denied the EPA’s abeyance motion; remanded as to pile-size and beneficial-use issues; vacated 40 C.F.R. 257.101, which allows for the continued operation of unlined impoundments and a provision that treats “clay-lined” units as if they were lined; found the Rule’s “legacy ponds” exemption unreasoned and arbitrary; rejected claims by industry members that EPA may regulate only active impoundments; found that EPA provided sufficient notice of its intention to apply aquifer location criteria to existing impoundments; and held that EPA did not arbitrarily issue location requirements based on seismic impact zones nor arbitrarily impose temporary closure procedures. View "Utility Solid Waste Activities v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that FERC did not adequately justify its approval of the tariff amendment at issue here, which prohibited cost sharing for a category of high-voltage projects conceded to have significant regional benefits, and which did so only because those projects reflected the planning criteria of individual utilities. The court granted the petitions for review, holding that the Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving the tariff amendment and applying it to the Elmont-Cunningham and Cunningham-Dooms projects. The court set aside the orders under review to the extent that they approved the amendment and applied it to the two projects, and remand for further proceedings View "Old Dominion Electric Coop. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging FERC's orders approving an exemption to the minimum offer price rule in the ISO New England forward capacity market for a limited amount of qualifying renewable energy. The court held that FERC engaged in reasoned decisionmaking to find that the renewable exemption to the minimum offer price rule resulted in a just and reasonable rate. The court also held that FERC did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioners' request for a hearing and the Commission did not abuse its discretion by relying on the written record to resolve disputes of material fact. View "NextEra Energy Resources, LLC v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged FERC's refund order in a cost-allocation case where the agency found that the rate-distribution methodology was unjust and unreasonable. FERC ordered refunds to customers who paid too much, funded by surcharges on customers who paid too little. The DC Circuit denied the petitions for review and held that the reallocation at issue did not constitute an impermissible retroactive rate increase where FERC reasonably determined that the prior rate methodology was unjust and unreasonable, and its reliance on certain evidence in reaching this conclusion was appropriate. FERC had authority to order refunds and corresponding surcharges under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act and its broad remedial authority under Section 309, because it had established that the existing rate was unjust and unreasonable, and that a different methodology would comply with cost-causation principles. View "Verso Corp. v. FERC" on Justia Law