FirstEnergy: Bankruptcy Court Asserts Primacy Over FERC; Approves Rejection of Power Purchase Agreements

By Charles A. Dale III, William M. Keyser, David A. Mawhinney, and Michael L. O’Neill                      

In a closely watched battle between FirstEnergy Solutions (“FirstEnergy”) and the Ohio Valley Energy Corporation (“OVEC”) that could have significant implications for the U.S. power sector, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio asserted its primacy over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) in deciding whether to allow FirstEnergy to repudiate certain FERC-regulated power purchase agreements (“PPAs”). In a decision with significant implications for all participants in rapidly evolving wholesale power markets, the bankruptcy court applied the highly deferential business judgment standard instead of the more stringent standard applied by FERC when evaluating proposed changes to PPAs featuring mutually agreed-upon filed rates. The court’s decision is now the subject of a direct appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the outcome may inspire additional action by Congress and the president.

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