On April 10, 2014, a FERC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a partial initial decision (ID) in Shell Pipeline Co. LP that broadly defines “substantial economic interest,” the regulatory threshold for standing to protest oil pipeline transportation rates.  The finding permits a group of producers to protest initial uncommitted rates on one segment of Shell Pipeline Company LP’s (Shell) Houston to Houma System (Ho-Ho).  As a consequence, Shell will need to provide full cost, revenue, and throughput data supporting the proposed rates unless the ID is reversed.  In December 2013, Shell filed three related tariffs for service on the Ho-Ho System corresponding to transportation along the entire system, the eastern two-thirds of the system, and the... READ MORE
On April 10, Sen. Mary Landrieu convened her first Federal Electric Regulatory Commission (FERC)-related oversight hearing as Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. The hearing, entitled Keeping the Lights On — Are We Doing Enough to Ensure the Reliability and Security of the US Electric Grid?, drew a standing room crowd to hear testimony from two FERC Commissioners, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) CEO, and representatives from state regulators, industry, trade associations, labor, and the environmental community. The hearing covered two major topics: (1) physical and cyber security issues involving the bulk power system; and (2) economic and regulatory concerns about the reliability of the generation... READ MORE
On March 28, 2014, the White House released the Administration’s comprehensive interagency Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions (Methane Strategy).  The Methane Strategy lists a number of new actions the Administration is taking or will take to reduce methane emissions, improve public health and safety, and provide more energy to the nation.  The actions are likely to affect the oil and natural gas industries. The Methane Strategy is only one part of President Obama’s goal to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.  According to the White House, the Methane Strategy could cut GHG emissions by up to 90 million metric tons in 2020.  Generally, the Methane Strategy includes: (1) a summary of the sources of... READ MORE
Susan Olenchuk and Michael Pincus will both be featured presenters at the Energy Bar Association's Natural Gas Primer.  The primer serves as an introduction to the federal laws regulating the natural gas industry. Taught by industry practitioners and regulators from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the course begins with a brief overview of the natural gas industry, including the production, gathering, transportation, distribution, and storage of natural gas. The course describes key statutes governing and affecting the interstate transportation of natural gas and discusses key legal milestones. Instructors explain important regulatory concepts, pipeline services, and the scope and limits of FERC jurisdiction. The class covers key... READ MORE
As electric markets in the West continue to evolve, there has been a corresponding evolution in the issues the region faces with respect to transmission. As new resources come on line, they trigger operational and cost allocation issues on the micro level. On a macro level, there are fundamental issues percolating that involve the best role for power marketing agencies (BPA and WAPA) in the region. In other parts of the country, the industry has seen expansion of ISO system and imbalance markets. This comprehensive conference will include updates on those developments and lessons for the Pacific Northwest from those experiences. Van Ness Feldman's Malcolm McLellan will co-chair the event. Partners Doug Smith and Evan Reese will speak. Van Ness... READ MORE
The Washington State Bar Association's 2014 Midyear Meeting and Conference of the Environmental Land Use Law Section will feature three Van Ness Feldman speakers and a host of valuable insight into legal developments in the environmental and land use sectors. Matt Love and Chris Zentz wil speak on May 1st at 1pm to give an Environmental Case Law Update. Tadas Kisielius will co-present on May 2nd at 10:15am on Water as the Key Ingredient for Rural Development. The three-day conference will cover: Updates on state and national case law in environmental and land use issues The effects of legalized cannabis from land use and ethical issues for practitioners The role of the Growth Management Act in the post-recession normal ... READ MORE
“The late federal appellate court Judge Learned Hand opined that regulatory commissions ‘fall into grooves ... and when they get into grooves, then God save you to get them out of the grooves.’ Washington attorney Bob Szabo, a 30-year enduring pain in the buttocks for freight railroads in his role representing Consumers United for Rail Equity (CURE), is imaginatively close to that ‘god,’ agitating how regulators have too long been in a groove by failing to recognize that railroads today are not the dirt-poor share croppers of pre-Staggers Act days, and that adjustments in regulatory freedoms are appropriate.”   Read Frank N. Wilner’s full article in Railway Age in the pdf attached above.   READ MORE
Washington, DC – The American Gas Association (AGA) and Van Ness Feldman LLP today announced the release of the 2014 Edition of The AGA FERC Manual—A Guide for Local Distribution Companies.  Since the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in which Congress gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) powerful enforcement authority, local distribution companies (LDCs) have made compliance with FERC regulations a particular focus of attention.  To assist its members in understanding and addressing these compliance obligations, AGA commissioned this important manual. The 2014 Edition of the AGA FERC Manual is an authoritative source of information about FERC’s governing statutes, as well as the rules that affect LDCs and other... READ MORE
The Seaway Crude Pipeline Company LLC (Seaway) remand proceeding in FERC Docket No. IS12-226-000 moved one small step closer to resolution on March 28, 2014.  The Presiding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an “Order to Brief Issues on Remand” (Order).  The Order seeks additional briefing on four topics, including committed shipper rates and their impact on the rate design of Seaway’s uncommitted shipper rates.  The ALJ’s initial treatment of Seaway’s committed shipper rates was the target of rebuke by FERC in its February 28, 2014 order (Remand Order) reversing and remanding the ALJ’s September 2013 Initial Decision (ID).  FERC was critical of the ID for ignoring FERC’s policy on oil pipeline contract rates, which honors the rates if the... READ MORE