Tag: Commissioners

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ITC Commissioners Recommend Tariffs and Quotas on Imports of Solar Cells and Modules; President May Announce Final Remedy Decision before End of 2017
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FERC Welcomes New Commissioners, Quorum Restored

ITC Commissioners Recommend Tariffs and Quotas on Imports of Solar Cells and Modules; President May Announce Final Remedy Decision before End of 2017

By: Stacy J. Ettinger, Elias B. Hinckley, and James R. Wrathall

As we previously reported, on September 22, 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) found that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“CSPV”) cells and modules have seriously injured (economically harmed) U.S. solar manufacturers. The four ITC Commissioners have now announced their separate recommendations for how to alleviate or “remedy” that economic injury. Remedies, such as tariffs or quotas, normally can be imposed for a maximum of four years.

The President will have the final say on whether to impose a remedy, and if so, the form, amount, and duration of the remedy. There is speculation in Washington that the President’s remedy decision could be announced in December.

The stakes are high. Industry experts believe that tariffs at the levels originally requested by Suniva could massively impede the economic health and growth of U.S. downstream users and consuming industries, more than doubling the costs of some solar projects and putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. Industry experts believe that imposition of tariffs at the levels recommended by the Commissioners could potentially have less of a draconian impact. Public comments on remedy issues for the President’s consideration may be submitted before November 20, 2017.

As described below, the Commissioners’ recommendations range from 10-35 percent tariffs on cell and module imports to defined quotas on imports of CSPV products. As a result of the ITC’s earlier injury findings, imports from free trade agreement (“FTA”) countries Mexico and Korea would be subject to imposition of remedies while imports from other FTA countries, including Canada, would not.

Chair Rhonda Schmidtlein recommends an in-quota tariff rate of 10 percent and an in-quota volume level of 0.5 gigawatts for imports of cells. Imports of cells that that exceed the in-quota 0.5 gigawatt volume level would be subject to a 30 percent tariff. Commissioner Schmidtlein also recommends a 35 percent tariffs on CSPV modules, to be reduced in each subsequent year.

Vice Chair David Johanson and Commissioner Irving Williamson recommend a 30 percent tariff on CSPV cell imports in excess of 1 gigawatt. In each subsequent year, the tariff rate would decrease and the in-quota amount would increase. For imports of CSPV modules, Commissioners Johanson and Williamson recommend a 30 percent tariff, to be reduced in each subsequent year.

Commissioner Meredith Broadbent recommends a quantitative restriction (quota) on imports of CSPV products into the United States, including cells and modules. The first year import quota would be set at 8.9 gigawatts, to be increased by 1.4 gigawatts in each subsequent year.

Commissioner Broadbent also recommends the President administer these quantitative restrictions through the sale of import licenses at public auction at a minimum price of one cent per watt. The revenue generated by the sale of import licenses would be used to assist domestic CSPV product manufacturers, including for purchase of production equipment, hiring of production workers, and R&D.

The ITC will send its final report to the President, including the Commissioners’ remedy recommendations, by November 13, 2017. The President has up to 60 days – and complete discretion – to determine the form, amount, and duration of the remedy.

The Commissioners’ remedy recommendations, if adopted by the President, would likely result in less impact on final module pricing than Suniva had originally requested. For example, the initial pricing impact of a 30 percent tariff would likely be in the range of 10 to 15 cents per watt on CSPV modules. This amount would likely decline as the price of modules drops and the tariff rate is reduced over time. Additionally, some CSPV manufacturing might shift to free trade agreement countries not included in the injury finding, which could further pull prices lower over time.

Public comments on remedy issues for the President’s consideration are due to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (“USTR”) on November 20, 2017. Rebuttal comments are due November 29, 2017. USTR will hold a public hearing on December 6, 2017.

For more information on the solar proceeding, including information on filing comments on remedy issues, contact Stacy Ettinger, Elias Hinckley, or Jim Wrathall of K&L Gates.

FERC Welcomes New Commissioners, Quorum Restored

By David L. Wochner, Sandra E. Safro, William M. Keyser, Molly Suda, Michael L. O’Neill, Jennifer L. Bruneau, Benjamin L. Tejblum, Elizabeth P. Trinkle and Gillian R. Giannetti

On August 3, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioners and restored FERC’s quorum for the first time in nearly 180 days. The next step is for Mr. Chatterjee and Mr. Powelson to be sworn into their positions.

FERC has not had a quorum since February 3, 2017. In the interim, the Commission has accumulated a backlog of filings that will require formal Commission action, including

  • Applications under Section 4 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) related to the rates and terms and conditions of service;
  • Applications related to interstate natural gas pipeline infrastructure under Section 7 of the NGA;
  • Applications related to the rates and terms and conditions of service for interstate oil and products pipelines under the Interstate Commerce Act;
  • Applications related to rates, rules, or charges for the transmission or wholesale sale of electric energy under the Federal Power Act;
  • Complaints challenging rates, rules, or charges for the transmission or wholesale sale of electric energy under the Federal Power Act; and
  • Petitions for declaratory orders seeking clarification from the Commission.

With FERC’s quorum restored, it also can move forward with rulemaking proceedings, including notices of proposed rulemaking that were issued before February 2017, as well as formal investigations and enforcement actions that require Commission authorization. It is unclear at this point how FERC will process and prioritize this backlog and how long it will take before the Commission is able to process filings on more traditional timeframes.

FERC does not hold a formal Commission meeting in August, but the Commissioners can vote notationally and therefore could begin issuing orders in the near term.

Below is a brief biography of FERC’s newest members.

Neil Chatterjee

Mr. Chatterjee most recently served as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s senior energy policy analyst. While in this position, Mr. Chatterjee advised Senator McConnell on energy and infrastructure initiatives, including President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Mr. Chatterjee worked previously as a Principal in Government Relations for the National Rural Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference chairman Deborah Pryce (R-OH). Mr. Chatterjee grew up in Lexington, Kentucky near the heart of the coal industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University in New York and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Chatterjee’s term expires on June 30, 2021.

Robert Powelson

Mr. Powelson has extensive regulatory experience, having served as a Commissioner at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Mr. Powelson has served on numerous academic boards, including Drexel University’s Board of Trustees and Lincoln University’s Board of Directors. Prior to his position on the Pennsylvania PUC, Mr. Powelson worked as Chief Executive Officer and President of the Chester County, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University and a master’s in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Powelson’s term expires on June 30, 2020.

In addition, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing for President Trump’s two other nominees, Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre, for September 7, 2017, at 10 a.m. If approved by the Committee, Mr. Glick and Mr. McIntyre will then be ready to be scheduled for full Senate confirmation. Below is a brief biography for both nominees.

Richard Glick

Before President Trump nominated him for FERC, Mr. Glick served as General Counsel for the Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Previously, Mr. Glick served as an energy and wind power lobbyist and advised U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson during the Clinton Administration. Mr. Glick earned his bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. If confirmed, Mr. Glick’s term would expire on June 30, 2022.

Kevin McIntyre

Mr. McIntyre is well-known among industry professionals, having served as co-head of Jones Day’s energy practice. While in private practice, Mr. McIntyre focused on government regulation of energy markets, electric and natural gas utilities, oil and natural gas pipelines, and co-authored several treatises on energy practice. Mr. McIntyre is actively involved in the Energy Bar Association, having served as on its Charitable Foundation’s Board of Directors. He also has served on the advisory board of Georgetown University Law Center’s Corporate Counsel Institute. Mr. McIntyre earned his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. If confirmed, Mr. McIntyre’s term would expire on June 30, 2018. The White House press release announcing Mr. McIntyre’s nomination also states the White House’s intention to seek an additional term for Mr. McIntyre, to expire on June 30, 2023.

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