As discussed previously in this blog, physical attacks against substations have been on the rise. However, the U.S. power grid is also vulnerable to cyberattacks from U.S. adversaries, which includes hostile foreign governments, as well as individual bad actors such as insiders and criminals. Although there have been more physical attacks than cyberattacks
Earlier this summer, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) introduced a groundbreaking order—Order No. 2023—aimed at reforming the generator interconnection process in response to the evolving landscape of energy resources, market dynamics, and emerging technologies across the nation.
Industry reaction to the substance of the new rules has been mixed, but it is…
In a forty-page opinion issued by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Texas Supreme Court held that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (“ERCOT”) has sovereign immunity regarding allegations of overpricing during Winter Storm Uri and related fraud claims, even though ERCOT is a private corporation. The Court was split 5-4 in its decision with Justices Boyd and Devine writing in dissent, joined by Justices Lehrmann and Busby.
On February 16, 2023, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued an order approving two extreme cold weather reliability standards: EOP-011-3 (Emergency Operations) and EOP-012-1 (Extreme Cold Weather Preparedness and Operations) proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), subject to modification. The approved Reliability Standards help to maintain reliable operation of the Bulk Power System by ensuring that enough generating units will be available during a cold weather event. According to FERC, the proposed Reliability Standards EOP-011-3 and EOP-012-1 are improvements to the existing Reliability Standards, but NERC must address additional concerns such as ambiguity, applicability, and compliance timelines. NERC is directed to submit modifications within twelve months.
On January 5, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “Fifth Circuit”) vacated a decision from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (the “Bankruptcy Court”) in Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. v. Just Energy Texas, L.P. (In re Just Energy Group, Inc.). The Fifth Circuit ruled that the Bankruptcy Court should have abstained from the case involving the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (“ERCOT”)’s management of price rates of electricity and should have transferred the case to the state district court. The case was remanded with instructions to determine the appropriate trajectory of the case after abstention.
On February 8, 2023, the State of Minnesota enacted House File 7 (“H.F. 7”) to modify electric utility standards and revises the state’s goals for generating carbon-free electricity by 2040. As discussed below, H.F. 7 significantly modifies the legal frameworks that direct and incentivize future Minnesota electric sector developments and has implications for regional energy policy.
Between October 2022 and February 2023, at least nine substations were attacked in North Carolina, Washington State, and Oregon, resulting in power outages for tens of thousands of people. Damage to two substations in Moore County, North Carolina on December 3, 2022 caused 45,000 people to lose power, some for five days.
On Friday, February 24, 2023, a Nevada federal judge issued an order in Bartell Ranch LLC et al. v. McCullough et al., rejecting emergency requests for injunction by Plaintiffs, among which are Native American Tribes, various environmental groups, and a rancher to block construction of the Thacker Pass lithium mine, pending their current appeal to the 9th Circuit. The Plaintiffs maintain that the Bureau of Land Management failed to acknowledge concerns about the impacts of the mine and that the permits were illegally granted. The District Court ruled in favor of the Defendants, the Bureau of Land Management and Lithium Nevada Corp., with the Court only requiring a re-approval of permits covering 1,300 of the approximately 6,000-acre mineable area. The Plaintiffs sought an injunction while their appeal to the 9th Circuit is ongoing. However, the Court ruled in favor of the Defendants, ruling that “the requisite strong showing of a likelihood of success on the merits of their appeal” had not been met, opening the door for the project to proceed.…
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (Commission) plays a vital role in regulating the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) wholesale market, and retail energy markets throughout all of Texas. This article identifies key projects and initiatives at the Commission that are ongoing in 2022 and have a major impact on the electric power grid and energy markets in Texas. The Commission continues to move rapidly as it implements the 2021 post-Uri legislative mandates, and we expect it to continue changing regulations affecting a wide swath of the market and the ERCOT system to bolster reliability. Everyone engaged in the ERCOT market should continue to pay close attention to these reforms. Husch Blackwell is following these key matters at the Commission and represents or advises clients on many of them. We are happy to answer any questions related to any item outlined below.
Regulated energy sector entities routinely submit confidential and proprietary business information to Texas state agencies, including the Railroad Commission (Texas’s incongruously named oil and gas regulator), the General Land Office, the Public Utility Commission, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (“ERCOT”), often assuming it is “for regulators’ eyes only.” But Texas agencies have limited power to prevent the disclosure of information sought pursuant to the Public Information Act (“PIA”).