Category: Public Policy

California Advances State Microgrid Policy
Split FERC Floats Overhaul of Utility Power Purchase Regs
CFTC Proposes Amendments to Swap Data Reporting Requirements
OZ Flash: Newly Issued Proposed Regulations and the President’s Remarks are a Boon to the OZ Incentive
Tax Developments Provide Opportunities for Economic Growth in Indian Country
Screen Grabs: FERC’s NOPR Removes Screens in Organized Markets Where Market Mitigation Rules
What’s Next for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard?
Energy and Infrastructure
Minding the Gap: FERC Issues Proposed Rule To Address Treatment of Income Taxes Following Change in Tax Rates
2018 Election Guide: A Guide to Changes in Congress – Available Now

California Advances State Microgrid Policy

By: Buck B. Endemann, and Olivia B. Mora

Microgrids have long been seen as a means to provide electricity customers with more control and security regarding their energy use.  In 2018, California passed Senate Bill (“SB”) 1339, which directed the California Public Utilities Commission (the “Commission”), the California Independent System Operator, and the California Energy Commission to jointly craft a microgrid policy framework.  This policy has taken on new urgency in the wake of last fall’s Public Safety Power Shutoffs, as consumers evaluate their energy security options to mitigate the intentional blackouts imposed during periods of heightened wildfire risk.  On September 19, 2019, the Commission issued an Order Instituting Rulemaking that will evaluate whether and how microgrids will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect California ratepayers, and advance California’s progressive environmental goals.

To read the full alert, click here.

For more updates on issues in the Energy & Utilities Industry, visit K&L Gates Hub.

Split FERC Floats Overhaul of Utility Power Purchase Regs

A divided Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed major changes Thursday in how it implements the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, with one commissioner saying the change would “administratively gut the statute” that requires utilities to buy power from small-scale renewable energy producers.

The notice of proposed rulemaking fulfills a priority of FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee to update the agency’s long-standing policies under PURPA, which is four decades old and has been criticized by many — especially in the utility industry — as being outdated.

Partner Will Keyser commented that PURPA reform has been long in the making. Read his quote and the full article here.

Originally reported by

CFTC Proposes Amendments to Swap Data Reporting Requirements

By: Lawrence B. Patent

Sellers under virtual power purchase agreements often agree to assume the duty to report the swap transactions contemplated by those agreements. Parties acting as reporting parties for Dodd-Frank purposes will be interested in the Roadmap to Achieve High Quality Swap Data (“Roadmap”) rulemakings currently under way at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”).

As part of the Roadmap proceedings, the CFTC recently published proposed amendments to its regulations governing swap data reporting requirements and swap data repositories (“SDR”). 84 Fed. Reg. 21044 (May 13, 2019). Among other changes, the proposals would require an SDR to distribute to each reporting counterparty on a regular basis an “open swaps report” detailing the swap data maintained by the SDR for all open swaps, organized by the unique identifier created for each swap. SDRs would be required to distribute the open swaps reports to non-swap dealer (“non-SD”) reporting counterparties, which would encompass most energy firms acting as a reporting counterparty, on a monthly basis, no later than the end of the day Eastern Time on the day of the month that the SDR chooses to regularly distribute the reports. The reporting counterparty would then be required to compare its books and records against the report to determine if the swap data that the SDR maintains is complete and accurate. A non-SD reporting counterparty would be required to submit either a verification of data accuracy or a notice of discrepancy within 96 hours of the SDR providing the open swaps report. This would be a change from the current regulatory framework that is based on the concept of negative affirmation, whereby reported swap data is presumed accurate and confirmed if a counterparty does not inform the SDR of errors or omissions or otherwise make modifications to a trade record within a specified time period under SDR rules.

If a notice of discrepancy were filed, the error or omission must be corrected within three business days of that notice filing. The current regulations require that an error or omission be corrected “as soon as technologically practicable” following discovery, but the proposals would reinforce that requirement with the three-business-day time frame. If that three-business-day time frame cannot be met, the reporting party would be required immediately to inform the Director of the CFTC’s Division of Market Oversight, or the Director’s designee, in writing, of such errors or omissions and provide an initial assessment of the scope of the errors or omissions and an initial remediation plan for their correction.

The requirements for correcting errors or omissions would apply to both swap data required by Part 45 of the CFTC’s regulations (creation and continuation data) and to swap transaction and pricing data required by Part 43 of the CFTC’s regulations. However, the open swaps report provision would only apply to the former, although the preamble of the notice announcing the proposed amendments specifically requests comment on whether that report should also cover swap transaction and pricing data.

The CFTC also states in the preamble that it expects that a reporting counterparty that repeatedly discovers errors or omissions, especially if they follow a pattern, would evaluate its reporting systems to discover and correct any issues. This would include working with the relevant SDR to address any reporting issues. The CFTC further notes that it may consider a reporting counterparty that fails to perform such an evaluation and improvement in light of repeated errors not to be in compliance with the regulations.

The proposed amendments, which are available here, are part of the CFTC’s Roadmap, and constitute the first of three anticipated Roadmap rulemakings. The comment period on these proposed amendments closes July 29, 2019. When the CFTC proposes the next two rulemakings, it anticipates re-opening the comment period for this first proposal to provide market participants with an opportunity to comment collectively on the three rulemakings together. The CFTC also anticipates that key provisions of each rulemaking would have the same compliance date, regardless of when each rulemaking is adopted in final form. The CFTC intends to provide a sufficient implementation period for these various rulemakings to give SDRs and market participants enough time to implement and test the changes that would be required.

OZ Flash: Newly Issued Proposed Regulations and the President’s Remarks are a Boon to the OZ Incentive

By Mary Burke Baker, Adam J. Tejeda, Olivia S. Byrne, Elizabeth C. Crouse, Edward Dartley, and Cary J. Meer

Yesterday, the Treasury Department rolled out proposed Opportunity Zone (“OZ”) regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”) and President Trump noted the progress made by his Opportunity and Revitalization Council to eliminate barriers to OZ investments. The administration is clearly all in on maximizing the number of businesses and projects that will qualify for OZ benefits.

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Tax Developments Provide Opportunities for Economic Growth in Indian Country

By Bart J. Freedman, Benjamin A. Mayer, Christina A. Elles, and Francesca M. Eick

Opportunities for economic growth in Indian country — including the development of retail space, hotels and resorts, energy projects, data farms, and more traditional farming activities, to name a few — are tied to several recent tax-related developments. These developments include federal regulations regarding the taxation of on-reservation real property and improvements leased and/or owned by non-Indians, whether tribes can collect sales taxes for on-reservation transactions with non-Indians, and how treaties can impact taxation of certain off-reservation activities. The developments are important for both tribes and nontribal parties interested in investing in on-reservation economic growth and development.

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Screen Grabs: FERC’s NOPR Removes Screens in Organized Markets Where Market Mitigation Rules

By William Keyser, Benjamin Tejblum, and Abraham F. Johns

On December 20, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NOPR) designed to simplify the horizontal market power analysis necessary for electric power sellers to secure market-based rate authority in some wholesale power markets.  Specifically, the NOPR eliminates the need to perform two indicative screens (the pivotal supplier screen and the wholesale market share screen) in capacity markets and wholesale power markets already subject to Commission-approved monitoring and mitigation rules.  Notably, the Southwest Power Pool and California Independent System Operator wholesale markets are not subject to these monitoring and mitigation rules, so parties seeking market-based rate authority to sell capacity in those markets must still perform the two indicative screens.  This simplification will relieve the added procedural burden of administering the indicative screens for parties seeking market-based rate authority in the other FERC-regulated markets. 

The NOPR also proposes to remove the presumption that market monitoring or mitigation measures will adequately address indicative screen failures in organized wholesale power markets where the grid operator does not administer a capacity market. Rather, the NOPR proposes that in the event of an indicative screen failure in those markets, applicants submit a delivered-price test or other evidence demonstrating a lack of horizontal market power or that the applicant propose other mitigation for capacity sales in those markets. 

K&L Gates attorneys will continue to monitor these developments and assist our clients navigating compliance with FERC rules and regulations.

What’s Next for California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard?

By Buck Endemann

In September 2018, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved several significant changes to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that will take affect on January 1, 2019. [1] The LCFS is California’s “cap and trade” regime for transportation fuels, where fuels are assigned a Carbon Intensity (CI) that varies depending on their feedstock and how they are produced or manufactured.  Producers of fuels with a CI under the annual cap (for 2018, 93.55 grams of CO2 equivalent per Megajoule) earn credits while producers of higher-carbon fuels like gasoline and diesel incur deficits and are required to buy offsetting credits to meet the annual average CI value.  Credits are bought and sold in the secondary market, and the current LCFS credit price of nearly $200/Metric Ton is driving the development of many facilities that are able to produce transportation fuels with low CI scores. 

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Energy and Infrastructure

Leveraging the Opportunity Zones Tax Incentive to Improve Returns on Development and Operations in The Oil and Gas and Power Industries

By Elizabeth C. Crouse, Mary Burke Baker, and Sandra E. Safro

A new federal tax incentive enacted in the 2017 tax reform package may provide a boost to many new facilities, repowering projects, and storage facilities. Qualified equipment could include a variety of energy and materials storage equipment, refining equipment, generating equipment, and extraction equipment.

The Qualified Opportunity Zones (“QOZ”) incentive provides attractive tax benefits for investors with capital gains to invest in property and businesses located in geographic areas that are designated as QOZ. Recently released regulations provide significant clarity and highlight how valuable the QOZ incentive can be for qualified investments. See our October 23 alert for a discussion of how the proposed regulations answer many important questions that provide the certainty investors, developers, and entrepreneurs in the energy and infrastructure industries need to proceed with QOZ investments and projects.

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Minding the Gap: FERC Issues Proposed Rule To Address Treatment of Income Taxes Following Change in Tax Rates

By Abraham F. Johns, Toks A. Arowojolu, William M. Keyser, Eric E. Freedman, David P.  Hattery, and Sandra E. Safro

On November 15, 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) announced two major policy developments on the treatment of Accumulated Deferred Income Taxes (“ADIT”) in light of the recent reduction of the federal income tax rate in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The proposed developments are intended to benefit utility customers by providing for a fair return of the tax savings created by the new law. First, FERC issued a Policy Statement that outlines FERC’s policy on the treatment of ADIT for both accounting and ratemaking purposes for public utilities, natural gas pipelines and oil pipelines in light of the recent reduction in income taxes. Second, in a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NOPR”), FERC proposes to require all public utility transmission providers to revise their transmission rates to account for the reduction in income taxes caused by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Policy Statement: Treatment of ADIT in Light of the Tax Rate Reduction

The Policy Statement, titled “Accounting and Ratemaking Treatment of Accumulated Deferred Income Taxes and Treatment Following the Sale or Retirement of Assets,” provides guidance on two questions FERC posed in its March 15, 2018, Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”).

First, FERC provides details on the specific accounts that public utilities and natural gas pipelines should use to record amortization of excess and deficient ADIT. FERC also explains how oil pipelines should treat deferred tax balances and provides that, for ratemaking purposes, FERC will continue the practice of amortization and removal of excess or deficient ADIT by reducing the returned allowed prior to grossing up for income taxes.

Second, FERC provides guidance on how public utilities, natural gas pipelines and oil pipelines should address excess and/or deficient ADIT that is recorded on their books after December 31, 2017, as a result of the sale or retirement of assets. The Policy Statement explains that in the case of a public utility or natural gas pipeline that continues to have an income tax allowance, any excess or deficient ADIT associated with an asset must continue to be amortized in rates even after the sale or retirement of that asset. If the rate treatment of the excess or deficient ADIT is disallowed, then the amounts should be written off in the year of the disallowance. In line with the existing Uniform System of Accounting for oil pipelines, FERC notes that for accounting purposes an oil pipeline’s ADIT balance will be reduced immediately by the full amount of the excess or deficient tax reserve. For ratemaking purposes, an oil pipeline would maintain the excess or deficient ADIT in the ADIT account and would continue to amortize those amounts when determining its income tax allowance as part of the ratemaking process after the assets are sold or retired.

The Policy Statement also states that, to provide greater transparency, public utilities, natural gas pipelines and oil pipelines should provide additional information regarding ADIT in their annual financial filings.

NOPR: Closing the Gap in Transmission Formula Rates of Public Utilities

The proposed reforms are intended to ensure ratepayers receive the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and that transmission rates are just and reasonable following the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. As explained in the NOPR, the proposed changes fall into three categories and apply differently to transmission formula rates and stated rates. First, the NOPR proposes to require public utilities with formula rates to include a mechanism in their formula rate to deduct excess ADIT from or add deficient ADIT to their rate bases. Second, the NOPR proposes to require public utilities with transmission formula rates to include a mechanism in the formula rate that decreases or increases their income tax allowances by any amortized excess or deficient ADIT. The NOPR proposes to require that public utility transmission providers with stated rates to determine the excess or deficient ADIT caused by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act based on the ADIT amounts approved in their last rate case and return or recover this amount from ratepayers. Finally, the NOPR proposes to require all public utility transmission providers with transmission formula rates to include a new permanent worksheet into their transmission formula rate that will track information annually related to excess or deficient ADIT.

In his remarks at FERC’s monthly meeting, Chairman Chatterjee emphasized that the NOPR does not prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach to make the required adjustments. Rather, the NOPR recognizes that multiple approaches to modify rate base may be just and reasonable.

All three Commissioners strongly supported the NOPR. Commissioner LaFleur stated, “My goal is to get tax savings back into the hands of the customers as quickly as possible. That’s not yet done, but this is an important first step.”

Comments are due within 30 days of publication of the NOPR in the Federal Register. We will continue to monitor the developments of this proceeding.

2018 Election Guide: A Guide to Changes in Congress – Available Now

The tumultuous 2018 midterm election, characterized by many as the most consequential in a generation, ended as predicted: the Democrats took control of the House while the Republicans increased their hold in the Senate.

Indeed, it was a tale of two Houses. As of 10:00 a.m. ET on November 7, the Democrats have picked up 28 seats in the House of Representatives, with the prospects of gaining about seven more as the remaining close races are decided, mostly in the west. In the Senate, Democratic Senators in Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota were defeated while a Republican lost in Nevada, resulting in a net gain of two Senate seats thus far for Republicans with three races too close to call.

To help you assess yesterday’s election, K&L Gates has prepared a comprehensive guide that summarizes the results and their impact on the 116th Congress, which will convene in January. The Election Guide lists all new members elected to Congress, updates the congressional delegations for each state, and provides a starting point for analyzing the coming changes to the House and Senate committees.

Please click here to download the most up-to-date version of the 148-page Election Guide, which will be updated on an ongoing basis as more of the close races are called and committees are finalized.

For additional information regarding the effects of the recent elections, please contact Tim Peckinpaugh or any member of the Public Policy and Law practice.

To view the complete guide online, click here.

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