Bracewell & Giuliani

Powered by the attorneys of Bracewell & Giuliani, Energy Legal Blog® is your resource for updates and analysis on national and global energy issues.
  1. EPA Denies RFS Petitions; API and AFPM Request Partial Waiver

    Friday, August 16, 2013 11:09 am by

    August has been a busy month for issues related to the Renewable Fuels Standard (“RFS”). 

    On August 6, EPA denied the petitions for reconsideration filed by the American Petroleum Institute (“API”) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (“AFPM”) regarding the 2013 Biomass-Based Diesel Renewable Fuel Volume.  EPA sent a letter to AFPM and another to API before publishing notice of this decision in the Federal Register on August 14.  As EPA’s technical response memo explains, EPA believes that there is no need to reconsider the applicable volume of biomass-based diesel for 2013 because the issues raised by API and AFPM could have been raised during the comment period and the issues raised do not provide substantial support for revising the standard.  In particular, EPA explained that there is no statutory prohibition to increasing the biomass-based diesel requirement over the 1.0 billion gallon standard even that will result in higher prices.  EPA disregarded two other arguments by explaining that when the Agency set the 2013 standard, it was aware of and considered both the 2012 drought and the RIN fraud issue.  (more…)

  2. Licensing Efficiency and Environmental Streamlining comes to Small Hydro Projects

    Monday, August 12, 2013 8:12 am by and

    Early Friday evening, President Obama signed into law two bills which aim to speed the licensing and environmental approval of low-impact hydropower projects. One bill is focused on projects under 5 megawatts constructed in manmade conduits - tunnels, canals, pipelines, aqueducts, flumes, ditches, or similar water conveyances – operated for the distribution of water for agricultural, municipal, or industrial consumption. These facilities no longer require FERC licensing, and therefore should be able to move forward much more expeditiously. Another provision allows slightly larger facilities – those with a capacity up to 10 kilowatts – to also be exempted from FERC licensing requirements by FERC Rule or Order. The last major provision of this bill requires FERC to examine the potential of issuing in only 2 years (including prefiling) all future licenses for hydropower development at nonpowered dams and closed loop pumped storage projects. The bill authorizes pilot projects and workshops to assist in the development of such a two-year process. The second bill stresses the need for streamlining the environmental review (essentially NEPA) process, ordering the Bureau of Reclamation to categorically exclude from the NEPA process such small conduit projects. (more…)

  3. Checking Off the List: DOE Approves a Third Non-FTA LNG Export Authorization

    Wednesday, August 7, 2013 5:22 pm by and

    The Department of Energy (“DOE”) recently issued its third order authorizing the export of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) to non-Free Trade Agreement (“FTA”) countries.  This latest order, for Lake Charles Exports, LLC (“Lake Charles”), will allow exports of up to 2 Bcf/day from the Lake Charles LNG terminal and bring the cumulative DOE-authorized non-FTA exports up to 5.6 Bcf/day. 

    Over the past several years, DOE has received approximately 19 applications to export LNG to non-FTA countries, and it has issued two export authorizations thus far.  The first was for Sabine Pass Liquefaction, LLC and the second was for Freeport LNG Expansion, L.P. and FLNG Liquefaction, LLC (together “Freeport”).  DOE is processing the remaining applications in accordance with a published list, with Dominion Cove Point LNG, LP being the next application in queue for review.  This next order is expected in six to eight weeks. (more…)

  4. FERC Takes Steps to Eliminate Barriers to Transmission Provider and Pipeline Communications

    8:38 am by

    On July 18, 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“Commission”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) proposing to revise its regulations to permit expressly interstate natural gas pipelines and public utilities that own, operate, or control transmission facilities (i.e., transmission operators) to share non-public, operational information for the purpose of promoting reliable service or operational planning. The Commission issued the NOPR in response to statements by natural gas pipelines and transmission operators at recent conferences concerning electric-gas coordination that they are reluctant to share non-public operational information with each other due to a concern that such sharing may be viewed as a violation of Commission laws and regulations, including the prohibitions against undue discrimination and preference contained in the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). 

    Noting that the protections against undue discrimination and preference do not prohibit differences in treatment when the difference is justified, the Commission clarified that the sharing of non-public, operational information between transmission operators and natural gas pipelines for the purpose of promoting reliable service or operational planning is reasonable and does not violate the FPA or NGA. In addition, responding to concerns that the Standards of Conduct (“SOC”) contained in Part 358 of the Commission’s regulations could prevent the effective participation of such entities in regional reliability or system planning exercises, the Commission clarified that the SOC do not limit communications between pipelines and transmission operators that are not affiliated with each other; the Commission emphasized, however, that communicating non-public transmission information during private exercises involving only the transmission provider and its marketing function employees is prohibited by the SOC, as it would give marketing function employees preferential access to non-public transmission information. (more…)

  5. FERC Moves to Streamline Certain Intrastate Gas Pipeline Filings

    Saturday, July 20, 2013 9:00 am by

    On July 18, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued a final rule that will create a new, streamlined rate filing and approval process for certain natural gas pipelines, including section 311 and Hinshaw pipelines.[1] Under FERC’s modified regulations, section 311 and Hinshaw pipelines can elect to make rate filings through “optional notice procedures,” under which the rate filing will be automatically approved, without FERC order, if no protests are filed against it. Section 311 and Hinshaw pipelines should benefit from the optional notice procedures because they allow for quicker and more reliable approval of uncontroversial rate filings.

    Under the optional notice procedures, protests must be submitted within 60 days of the pipeline’s initial filing (though FERC may establish another deadline of its choosing). If no protests are submitted in this time, the filing is approved. If protests are submitted, and the parties reach no resolution during a 30 day settlement period, FERC will initiate a proceeding to resolve the issues. The optional notice procedures also establish a deadline for interventions and initial comments of 21 days after the pipeline’s initial filing. While protests can be filed at any point up until the 60 day deadline, FERC’s aim is to get initial comments submitted within 21 days so that there is time to get disputed issues resolved and withdrawn before the 60 day deadline. (more…)

  6. FERC Requires Filing of Additional Oil Pipeline Rate Base Information

    Friday, July 19, 2013 2:41 pm by

    On July 18th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) approved a final rule that makes substantive changes to the components of FERC Form 6, which interstate oil pipelines are required to file each year.[1] The rule requires additional reporting of the figures underlying pipelines’ rates of return and is intended to make it easier for both FERC and oil pipeline shippers to evaluate whether a given transportation rate complies with the law.

    The new rule pertains to page 700 of Form 6, which provides information designed to show the pipeline’s cost of service, including O&M expenses, rate base, rate of return, total cost of service, revenues, and throughput. The purpose of this reporting is to provide a preliminary screen for determining whether a pipeline’s rates are “just and reasonable” as required by the Interstate Commerce Act. (more…)

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