Regulatory & Legislative

In a rulemaking issued April 6, 2023, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (“Commission”) adopted amendments to market participant registration and certification requirements.[1] The Commission’s rule amendments significantly change qualification and reporting requirements for Retail Electric Providers (“REP”), Power Generation Companies (“PGC”), Self-Generators, and Power Marketers. This article outlines the most significant of these

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 February 14, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) method for calculating the size of a small power production qualifying facility (QF) under PURPA as the net output or “send-out” capacity of the project. See Solar Energy Industries Association v. FERC, No. 21-1126 (D.C. Cir. 2023). To be a small power production QF under PURPA, a facility must use a qualified renewable resource, such as biomass, waste, wind, solar, or geothermal resources, to produce energy, and have a power production capacity that does not exceed 80 megawatts when considered with other facilities at the same site. FERC’s method of calculating the maximum size limitation was contested by Edison Electric Institute and Northwestern Energy (collectively, Utilities).

On January 27, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its intent to invest up to $47 million in funding for clean hydrogen research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) as part of its “Hydrogen Shot” – a program intended to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen to $1 per kilogram in the coming decade by reducing costs and improving the performance of hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen Shot is also part of the Biden administration’s strategy to decarbonize the electric grid entirely by 2035 and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) recently circulated a Proposed Rule on Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation (“2022 Proposal”). This iteration, as BLM acknowledges, is a revamp of its fraught 2016 attempt to issue a similar rule ostensibly aimed at reducing natural gas waste on federal and Indian leases (“2016 Rule”). The 2016 Rule was ultimately struck down two years ago as unlawful. To the Wyoming federal court, the 2016 Rule sought to regulate air emissions—a role reserved for the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the states—rather than prevent the waste of resources through flaring and other means. Undeterred, the Biden Administration believes it has learned from and theoretically fixed the flaws in the 2016 Rule through the 2022 Proposal. The 2022 Proposal claims to focus on reducing operator costs and generating taxpayer revenue. This is a shift from the 2016 Rule, which relied on the benefits from reduced carbon emissions to justify its issuance. Nevertheless, the question to many stakeholders remains: does the 2022 Proposal still exceed BLM’s authority, or has the agency done enough to win a future legal challenge?

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.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its most recent proposal for controlling greenhouse gas emissions produced by the oil and gas industry earlier this month. The supplemental proposal builds upon the comments received by EPA in response to its proposed emission-control rules issued under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act (“CAA”) on November 15, 2021. In particular, the supplemental proposal revises and expands the stringent emissions control program introduced one year ago for new and existing sources. The supplemental proposal, however, raises questions regarding the implementation of existing greenhouse gas reporting and fee requirements under the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”). 

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”).