Reed Smith Client Alerts

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission), in concert with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), has adjusted its operations for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic while ensuring the ongoing operation and oversight of the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Authors: Colette D. Honorable Peggy A. Heeg Debra Ann Palmer

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On March 18, 2020, the Commission and NERC provided regulatory relief to bulk electric system operators that are struggling to maintain compliance obligations during the public health crisis.1 The Commission and NERC announced that the effects of the coronavirus will be deemed an acceptable basis for non-compliance with obtaining and maintaining personnel certification, as required in Reliability Standard PER-003-2, for the period from March 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. PER-003-2 is intended to ensure that system operators that perform as reliability coordinator, balancing authority and transmission operator are certified through NERC’s System Operator Certification Program when filling a real-time operating position that will be responsible for control of the bulk electric system. Under the stated temporary relief, registered entities must notify their regional entities and reliability coordinators when using system operator personnel that are not NERC certified. Additionally, on a case-by-case basis, non-compliance with reliability standard requirements involving periodic actions that would have occurred between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020, will be excused if non-compliance was related to the coronavirus disruption. Registered entities should notify their regional entities of any periodic actions that will be missed during that period. Finally, the Commission and NERC directed regional entities to postpone on-site audits, certifications, and other on-site activities until July 31, 2020. Registered entities are instructed to communicate any resource impacts associated with remote activities to their regional entities. 

Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee announced the additional measures on March 19, 2020:2

  • The Office of the Secretary issued a notice for extension of time to provide more flexibility on deadlines for certain required filings that are due on or before May 1, 2020. Those filings include non-statutory items required by the Commission, such as compliance filings and responses to deficiency letters and rulemaking comments, as well as forms required by the Commission, except for FERC Form No. 6. The extension also applies to filings required by entities’ tariffs or rate schedules.
  • Entities may seek extensions for other deadlines and may seek waiver of Commission orders, regulations, tariffs, and rate schedules, as appropriate. The Commission will act expeditiously on those requests.
  • The Office of Enforcement is postponing all previously scheduled audit site visits and investigative testimony. The Office of Enforcement will also work to grant extensions and waivers of compliance filings, forms, and EQRs, as appropriate.
  • Technical conferences scheduled through May 2020 will be conducted via conference call or WebEx, or postponed. Schedules will be posted to the FERC.gov calendar.
  • Chief Administrative Law Judge Carmen Cintron postponed a hearing scheduled to start April 7, 2020, and will make case-specific calls on other hearings as their start dates approach. Settlement conferences will continue via conference call.