Summary of Key FERC-Related Provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005
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On July 28, 2005, the House of Representatives approved the Energy Policy
Act of 2005 (“Act”) by a vote of 275 – 156. The following day, the Senate
approved the Act by a vote of 74 – 26. All that remains for the $12.3 billion
dollar legislation to become law is the President’s signature, which is
expected to come sometime this week. The 1,724 page document addresses a
wide variety of energy issues ranging from improvements to the energy infrastructure
of the country to providing incentives for the use and development of alternate
energy technologies. The Act also amends or repeals the Public Utility Holding
Company Act (“PUHCA”), and gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(“FERC” or “Commission”) expanded power over utility mergers. The bill provides
FERC with additional regulatory authority and responsibilities, while also
significantly raising the amount of both civil and criminal penalties for
companies that violate the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) or Natural Gas Act
(“NGA”). The following summary highlights key FERC-related provisions contained
in the Act1.
- The Act amends the NGA and the Natural Gas Policy Act of 1978 (“NGPA”)
to include a drastic increase in the severity of the criminal penalties
for directly violating, or causing to be violated, the provisions of the NGA or NGPA. The Act increases FERC’s criminal penalty authority from
$5,000 to $1,000,000, with the possible maximum jail term increasing from
2 years to 5 years.
- The Act also increases the penalty for willfully and knowingly violating
a Commission rule, regulation or order issued under the NGA or NGPA from
$500 to $50,000 for each day of continued violation.
- The Act amends the NGA to grant FERC authority for the first time
to assess civil penalties for violations of the NGA or any FERC action
made under the authority of the NGA. This new authority allows FERC to
impose civil penalties of not more than $1,000,000 for each day of continued
- The Act also increases the civil penalty FERC may assess for violations
of the NGPA, from $5,000 to $1,000,000.
Market Manipulation and Price Transparency
- The Act amends the NGA to explicitly prohibit the manipulation of
the markets for the purchase or sale of natural gas and the transportation
of natural gas regulated by FERC, by making it unlawful to employ any
manipulative device (as those terms are used in Section 10(b) of the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934) in contravention of FERC regulations. (Section 315).
- FERC is also directed to prescribe rules that facilitate price transparency
in the market for the sale and interstate transportation of natural gas.
- The rules shall exempt from disclosure information that FERC determines
would be harmful to the operation of an effective market or jeopardize
system security. In devising these rules, FERC must seek to protect
consumers from collusion and anticompetitive behaviors that may result
from the untimely disclosure of information concerning specific transactions,
and also shall rely on private publishers to the extent possible.
- FERC cannot assess a penalty under this section for actions that
occurred more than three years prior to the date of the receipt of a
notice that a violation has occurred, absent a showing of fraud.
- The Act also amends the NGA to grant FERC the authority to prohibit,
temporarily or permanently, an individual who has violated the new market
manipulation prohibitions (new section 4A of the NGA) from acting as an
officer or director of a natural gas company or from engaging in the business
of buying or selling natural gas or natural gas transmission services.
Liquefied Natural Gas (“LNG”)
- The Act amends the NGA by granting the Commission the exclusive authority
to approve or deny applications for the siting, construction, expansion
and operation of LNG terminals.
- This section restricts the Commission’s review process, prior to January
1, 2015, by prohibiting the Commission from denying an application based
on certain factors, thus making it easier for a company to install an
LNG terminal solely for its own use. FERC cannot deny an application solely
on the basis that the terminal will be used only by the applicant or an
affiliate, or regulate the usage, rates, or terms of a contract regarding
the use of the LNG terminal.
- Section 3 of the NGA is amended to require the Commission to issue
rules outlining a pre-filing process for LNG terminals. By these rules,
an application for an LNG facility must comply with the pre-filing process
required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. §
4321 et seq.). This process shall begin at least 6 months prior to filing
for authorization to construct an LNG terminal.
- The Commission shall consult with a state agency, designated by the
Governor of the State in which the LNG terminal is proposed, on matters
of State and local safety. State and local safety considerations include
several enumerated factors, including the need to encourage remote siting
of LNG facilities.
- After this section has been enacted, the State may also furnish an
advisory report on safety matters to the Commission (30 days prior to
the application’s filing). The Commission shall address the issues raised
in this report prior to issuing an order authorizing the LNG project.
- The State commission may also conduct safety inspections of the LNG
facility once the terminal is operational.
- An LNG terminal operator shall develop an emergency response plan
in coordination with the United States Coast Guard and local agencies
prior to final approval to begin construction.
- The Act also mandates that the Commission enter into a Memorandum
of Understanding with the Secretary of Defense to coordinate the siting,
construction, expansion or operation of an LNG facility that may affect
an active military installation.
Natural Gas Storage
- The Act amends Section 4 of the NGA to allow the Commission to authorize
a natural gas company to provide storage and storage-related services
at market-based rates for new storage capacity related to a specific facility
placed in service after the date of enactment. This shall be done even
if the company fails to demonstrate that it lacks market power as long
as FERC finds that the proposed rates are in the public interest, necessary
to encourage construction of the storage capacity, and customers are protected.
The Commission shall review these rates periodically to determine they
remain just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory. (Section 312).
Permit Process Coordination and Judicial Review of the Process
- The Commission shall act as the lead agency for the purposes of coordinating
all Federal authorizations required to comply with the National Environmental
Policy Act of 1969. The Commission shall have the authority to set the
schedule for all Federal authorizations. FERC must also maintain a complete
record of all decisions made by Federal and State agencies regarding this
process. This process pertains to the authorization of facilities under
section 3 or section 7 of the NGA.
- The United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the facility
is proposed to be located shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction
over any civil suit for the review of the action of a Federal agency,
or State agency acting pursuant to Federal law, concerning the permitting
process for a facility subject to NGA section 3 or section 7 (including
compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Act and other statutes).
- The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia shall
have original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action for the
failure of any Federal or State agency to act in a timely manner in the
permitting process required for a facility subject to NGA section 3 or
- Amends Part II of the FPA by authorizing FERC to certify Electric
Reliability Organizations (“EROs”) to establish and enforce reliability
standards for the bulk power system. (Section 1201). The Act does not,
however, authorize FERC to require the enlargement of bulk-power system
facilities or the construction of new transmission or generation capacity.
- In addition to outlining the requirements for an ERO prior to FERC
certification, the bill also calls for FERC to issue a Final Rule implementing
the requirements of this section within 180 days after it is enacted.
- FERC may grant an ERO the ability to devise reliability standards
and enforce those standards once they have been approved by the Commission.
Any penalty imposed by the ERO shall bear a reasonable relationship to
the seriousness of the violation, and shall be subject to FERC review.
- The Act also provides for FERC to have the authority to form Regional
Advisory Bodies to oversee the EROs and electric reliability generally
upon petition by a two-thirds of the states within a region whose electric
demand is at least 50% served from that region.
Transmission Infrastructure Modernization
- The Act authorizes the establishment of National Interest Electric
Transmission Corridors to alleviate congestion of transmission in the
power grid. These corridors shall be reexamined every three years.
- Authorizes the Commission, under certain circumstances, to issue permits
for the modification or construction of additional transmission facilities
in the national interest in these corridors if the Commission deems state
action to be insufficient or carried out inefficiently. Federal eminent
domain authority is provided for any such facilities.
Transmission Operation Improvements
(Sections 1231 – 1236)
- Open Access by Non-regulated Transmitting Utilities: the Act gives
FERC authority to require an unregulated transmitting utility (as defined
by FPA § 201(f)) to provide transportation services at the same rate and
under the same conditions that it uses when it deals with itself.
- Exemptions to this rule include if the facility produces less than
4,000,000 MWh of electricity per year, if the facility is not necessary
for the operation of an interconnected transmission system, or if it meets
other criteria determined to be in the public interest. These requirements
do not apply to local distribution facilities.
Transmission Rate Reform
- The Act requires FERC, within one year of the bill’s enactment, to
establish incentive-based rate treatments for public utilities to promote
reliability and reduce congestion. (Section 1241).\
- The Act requires that the rules promulgated by FERC establishing these
incentives shall promote capital investment in facilities for the transmission
of electricity, attract new investment with an attractive return on equity,
encourage improvement in transmission technology, and allow for the recovery
of prudently incurred costs related to reliability and improved transmission
Amendments to PURPA
- The Act amends various sections of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies
Act of 1978. The changes concern a variety of issues including an alternate
method of metering electricity, the use of fossil fuels in generating
electricity, and coordinating the response to extreme demand.
Repeal of Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA)
- A portion of the energy bill which has significant implications for
the gas and electric utility industry is the Public Utility Holding Company
Act of 2005, which repeals the 1935 version of PUHCA. (Section 1263) A
thorough review of the repeal of PUHCA will be available in the form of
a separate GT Alert.
Merger Review Reform
- While repealing PUHCA, the Act also expands FERC authority over utility
mergers and acquisitions. Specifically, the Act amends section 203(a)
of the FPA to grant FERC, in addition to its existing authority to review
proposed mergers and acquisitions involving interstate public utility
facilities currently within its jurisdiction, the authority to approve
the merger or acquisition of existing electric generation facilities used
for jurisdictional interstate wholesales of electricity.
- The Act also requires prior Commission approval of any merger or
acquisition by an electric utility holding company with a transmitting utility, an
electric utility, or another electric utility holding company, as defined
in the Act.
- The Commission, within 6 months of the enactment of this Act, must
adopt rules that allow for the review of such transactions in less than
180 days from the filing of an application unless good cause requires
additional review time.
Market Transparency, Enforcement and Consumer Protection
(Sections 1281 – 1290)
- The Act gives the Commission broad power to enact rules promoting
transparency in the markets for the sale and transmission of electricity,
while also considering the public interests of preserving the integrity
of those markets and ensuring fair competition. These provisions parallel
similar amendments to the NGA discussed previously. In this regard, the
- Amends the FPA to explicitly prohibit the reporting of false information
relating to the price of electricity sold or the availability of transmission
capacity. (Section 1282).
- Amends the FPA to explicitly prohibit the manipulation of the electric
energy market by any entity, directly or indirectly. (Section 1283).
- The Act also significantly expands FERC’s criminal and civil penalty
authority, by increasing the criminal penalties for willful and knowing
violations of the related sections of the FPA. The maximum fine increases
from $5,000 to $1,000,000 and the maximum jail sentence increases from
2 to 5 years.
- The criminal penalty for violating a regulation, rule or order issued
by FERC under the authority of the FPA also increases from $500 to $25,000
for each day the violation continues.
- The scope of civil penalties is expanded to include all of part II
of the FPA, not just enumerated sections. The penalty for a violation
of this part increases from $10,000 per day to $1,000,000 per day, for
as long as the violation continues.
- Section 206 of the FPA is amended to expand the Commission’s refund
authority regarding short term (less than 31 days) sales of electricity,
(Section 1286), and by permitting FERC to extend the refund effective
date back to the date of the filing of any complaint.
- The Act amends section 314 of the FPA to allow for a court to prohibit
an individual found to have violated the new anti-market manipulation
provisions of the FPA from acting as an officer or director of an electric
utility or engaging in the business of purchasing or selling electric
energy or electric transmission services. (Section 1288).
Relief For Extraordinary Violations
- This section grants the Commission exclusive authority to determine
whether to require “termination payments” for power not delivered under
contracts entered into prior to June 20, 2001, by a seller of wholesale
energy found by the Commission to have manipulated the electricity market.
Other Provisions of Interest
California Energy Crisis 2000-2001
- The Act mandates that FERC conclude its investigation of the unjust
or unreasonable charges to California resulting from the “electricity
crisis” of 2000-2001 as soon as possible. FERC must summarize the actions
it has taken and anticipates taking in a report due to Congress by December
31, 2005. The Act explicitly reiterates FERC’s responsibility of ensuring
that the refunds owed to California, resulting from the actions taken
during the crisis, are paid to California.
Office of Indian Energy and Related Matters
(Sections 501 – 506)
- The Act provides for the establishment of an Office of Indian Energy
Policy and Programs within the Department of Energy. The Director of the
Office shall be appointed by the Secretary of Energy. The Office shall
promote the development of a more self-sufficient and efficient energy
infrastructure on Indian lands. The office will also provide grants and
loans to assist Indian tribes with the further development of energy resources
found on tribal lands.
- The Act, pursuant to the establishment of the Office of Indian Energy
Policy and Programs, establishes that an Indian tribe may grant a right-of-way
over tribal land for a pipeline or electric transmission line, without
approval of the Secretary of Energy if certain conditions are met. These
conditions are: 1) that the right-of-way is executed under a resource
agreement approved by the Secretary; 2) that the term of the agreement
does not exceed 30 years; 3) that the pipeline or transmission line serves
a facility located on tribal land; 4) and that the tribe has entered into
an energy resource agreement with the Secretary. If these conditions are
not met, the Secretary of Energy would have the ability to review and
grant approval to a proposed right-of-way agreement.
- Provides for the submission of tribal energy resource agreements,
to be approved by the Secretary of Energy, the terms of which address
a variety of issues concerning business agreements, leases and right-of-way
agreements. Some of the issues addressed in the resources agreement would
be the term of agreements such as those concerning leases and right-of-way,
renewal of those agreements and the economic return due the Indian tribe
under those agreements.
- In addition, Section 1813 of the Act requires the Secretaries of Energy
and Interior to conduct a joint study of issues regarding energy rights-of-way
on Indian land within one year, in consultation with Indian tribes, the
energy industry, appropriate governmental entities (presumably including
FERC), and affected businesses and consumers. The study must include:
- An analysis of historic rates of compensation paid for energy rights-of-way
on tribal land;
- Recommendations for how to determine fair compensation to Indian
tribes for energy rights-of-way;
- An assessment of tribal interests implicated by energy rights-of-way
on tribal land; and
- An analysis of relevant national energy transportation policies
relating to energy rights-of-way on tribal land.
(Sections 241 -246)
- Provides for the resolution of any disputed issues of material fact
by trial-type hearing, of no more than 90 days, for issues relating to
the issuance of licenses for construction of structures used in the production
of hydroelectric power on land reserved by the Federal Government. The
procedures for this trial-type hearing must be determined within 90 days
of the enactment of legislation jointly by the Secretaries of Agriculture,
Interior and Commerce in consultation with FERC.
- Provides for more input by the applicant in the application process
concerning federally reserved lands. The applicant may propose alternative
conditions to a license once a condition has been deemed necessary by
the Secretary under whose supervision the reserved land falls.
- Provides for an production-based incentive payment to non-Federally
owned hydroelectric facilities that meet certain qualifications, for a
period of 10 years. The amount of the incentive will be based on the number
of kilowatt hours generated during the incentive period, capped at $750,000
per calendar year. This incentive plan will only be available for 20 years
after the enactment of the legislation.
- Authorizes a similar incentive payment plan to benefit owners and
operators of hydroelectric facilities at existing dams for improvements
in efficiency (by at least 3%) at these plants. These incentive payments
are limited to 10% of the cost of the capital improvements that directly
result in the increased efficiency and are limited to one payment per
facility not to exceed $750,000.
(Sections 961 – 968)
- The Act authorizes the Secretary of Energy to, among other things,
conduct a “program of research, development, demonstration and commercial
application of oil and gas” concerning exploration, transportation and
distribution infrastructure, and environmental research. (Section 965).
These studies will be performed with the goal of improving the “efficiency,
effectiveness and environmental performance” of fossil energy production,
with an eye toward managing the decline in the domestic supply of oil
and gas resources.
- The Act commissions a variety of studies to examine various energy
issues. The areas of study include, among others:
- An inventory of natural gas and oil storage,
- Low volume natural gas reservoirs,
- The progress of Alaska natural gas pipeline,
- Hydroelectric generation, and
- Distributed generation.
- Section 1815 establishes an interagency task force to study and analyze
competition in the wholesale and retail electricity markets. The task
force shall submit its findings within one year.
- Section 1818 requires the Secretary of Energy to submit a report on
natural gas supplies and demand, with the purpose of “achieving a balance”
between the supply and demand for natural gas.
- Section 1831 authorizes the Secretary of Energy to review the policies
and programs enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, as they related
to the development of alternate fueled vehicle technology.
1 Citations to specific sections of the Act
are indicated in parentheses.
This Alert was written by
Kenneth M. Minesinger and
Michael A. Chase
in the Washington, DC office. Please contact Mr. Minesinger at 202-530-8572,
Ms. Doreen Saia at 518-689-1430, or your Greenberg Traurig liaison, if you
have any questions regarding the subject matter of this Alert.
© 2005 Greenberg Traurig
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