Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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FERC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying a complaint brought by the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts alleging that PG&E breached agreements between the parties. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition for review of FERC's orders and held that FERC misinterpreted the definition of "Adverse Impact" to the service territories of the Districts, and thus improperly disposed of the Districts' complaints without determining whether changes to the Remedial Action Scheme may result in reductions in transmission over the California-Oregon Transmission Project. The panel also held that FERC applied the wrong standard for initiating a study when making its factual findings. The panel directed FERC on remand to apply the broader definition of Adverse Impact that included reductions in import capability over the California-Oregon Transmission Project and the proper standard for requesting a study in determining whether PG&E breached the Interconnection Agreements. View "Turlock Irrigation District v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted CPUC's petition for review of FERC's determination that PG&E was eligible for an incentive adder for remaining a member of the California Independent System Operator Corporation (Cal-ISO) when state law prevented PG&E's departure without authorization. The panel held that FERC's determination that PG&E was entitled to incentive adders for remaining in the Cal-ISO was arbitrary and capricious, because FERC did not reasonably interpret Order 679 as justifying summary grants of adders for remaining in a transmission organization. The panel explained that, because FERC's interpretation was unreasonable, FERC's grants of adders to PG&E were an unexplained departure from longstanding policy. Furthermore, FERC created a generic adder in violation of the order. View "CPUC V. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the Forest Service's determination that EFR had a valid existing right to operate a uranium mine on land within a withdrawal area of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park that the Secretary of the Interior withdrew from new mining claims. The panel held that the Mineral Report was a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and that the district court correctly held that Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, 706 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2013), not Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Service, 469 F.3d 768 (9th Cir. 2006), governed this case; that action was complete when the plan was approved; resumed operation of Canyon Mine did not require any additional government action; and thus the EIS prepared in 1988 satisfied NEPA. The panel also held that the Mineral Report approved an "undertaking" under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. 306108; the Mineral Report did not permit, license, or approve resumed operations at Canyon Mine; and the original approval was the only "undertaking" requiring consultation under the NHPA. Finally, the environmental groups did not have prudential standing to challenge the Mineral Report. View "Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The unconstitutional legislative veto embedded in section 204(c)(1) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1714, is severable from the large-tract withdrawal authority delegated to the Secretary in that same subsection. Invalidating the legislative veto provision does not affect the Secretary's withdrawal authority. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the decision of the Secretary to withdraw from new uranium mining claims, up to twenty years, over one million acres of land near Grand Canyon National Park. In this case, the panel held that the environmental impact statement (EIS) did take existing legal regimes into account but reasonably concluded that they were inadequate to meet the purposes of the withdrawal; the Establishment Clause challenge failed under Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612–13 (1971); and the panel rejected challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1604(e). View "National Mining Ass'n v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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This petition for review returned to a long series of administrative cases arising out of the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001 all centering on whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) acted arbitrarily or capriciously in calculating certain refunds. FERC that FERC had acted outside its jurisdiction when ordering governmental entities/non-public utilities to pay refunds, the Commission vacated each of its orders in the California refund proceeding to the extent that they ordered governmental entities/nonpublic utilities to pay refunds. In sum, although the tariffs were not specific, the Ninth Circuit could not concluded FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously in its construction of the tariffs. View "California Pub. Util. Comm'n v. Federal Energy Reg. Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Petitioners seek review of FERC's determination that various energy companies committed tariff violations in California during the summer of 2000. As part of a deregulation program, California created two nonprofit entities: the California Power Exchange Corporation (“CalPX”) and the California Independent System Operator Corporation (“Cal-ISO”). Both entities were subject to FERC jurisdiction, with CalPX operating pursuant to a FERC-approved tariff and wholesale rate schedule. The Cal-ISO tariff comprehensively regulated California’s power markets, and incorporated the Market Monitoring and Information Protocol (“MMIP”), which set forth rules for identifying and protecting against abuses of market power. The court concluded that FERC’s determination that Shell, MPS, and Illinova (“sellers”) violated the Cal-ISO tariff and MMIP during the Summer Period was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. In this case, FERC reasonably interpreted the Cal-ISO tariff and the MMIP according to the plain text of those documents. Therefore, the court rejected the sellers’ claims that the tariff and MMIP did not proscribe the practices identified by the agency. Furthermore, FERC’s interpretation of the Cal-ISO tariff and the MMIP finds support not only in text, but in policy as well. The court concluded that FERC reasonably interpreted the Cal-ISO tariff and the MMIP to prohibit the practices of False Export, False Load Scheduling and Anomalous Bidding. In addition, the agency reasonably concluded that the tariff and MMIP sufficed to put sellers on notice that such practices were not permitted. The court also concluded that FERC reasonably concluded that the sellers engaged during the Summer Period in the practices deemed tariff violations by the orders on review. Finally, the court concluded that FERC’s Summer Period determinations regarding APX and BP were not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review in part and dismissed in part. View "MPS Merchant Serv. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Energy Northwest, alleging claims of retaliation in violation of the Energy Reorganization Act, 42 U.S.C. 5851. The whistleblower retaliation provision of the Act protects energy workers who report or otherwise act upon safety concerns. In this case, plaintiff's single expression of a difference of opinion about the “Charlie” designation of one existing internal condition report lacks a sufficient nexus to a concrete, ongoing safety concern. Therefore, the court concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment for Energy Northwest because plaintiff's conduct falls outside the scope of the Act's protection. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sanders v. Energy Northwest" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged several FERC orders that were issued following the court's remand in Port of Seattle v. FERC. The key issue on appeal is the applicability of the Mobile-Sierra doctrine, which requires FERC to “presume that the rate set out in a freely negotiated wholesale-energy contract meets the ‘just and reasonable’ requirement” imposed by law. The court concluded that it has jurisdiction only as to the issue of whether FERC erred by invoking the Mobile-Sierra doctrine and that it lacks jurisdiction to review FERC’s evidentiary orders. The court held that FERC reasonably applied Mobile-Sierra to the class of contracts at issue and that FERC's interpretation is reasonable. In this case, FERC’s baseline assumption that the presumption applies to the contracts at issue is not unreasonable in light of Morgan Stanley Capital Grp., Inc. v. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1. Accordingly, the court denied the petition with respect to petitioners' claim that the Mobile-Sierra presumption cannot apply to the spot sales at issue and dismissed the evidentiary challenges for lack of jurisdiction. View "State of California v. FERC" on Justia Law

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IDACORP submitted proposed settlements to FERC involving the FERC proceeding related to electricity sales in the Pacific Northwest in 2000 and 2001. At issue was whether FERC abused its discretion in considering these proposed settlements. The court concluded that the agency departed from its rules and precedent without explanation when it treated the first proposed settlement as uncontested. In this case, FERC abused its discretion by foregoing the Trailblazer Pipeline Co. analysis and merits analysis dictated by FERC’s regulations. The court granted both petitions for review and remanded for further proceedings because the settlements and petitions are inextricably intertwined. View "Idaho Power Co. v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, wholesale electricity customers, challenged FERC's orders requiring the Bonneville Power Administration to provide transmission services on terms "not unduly discriminatory or preferential." Petitioners are wholesale electricity customers of Bonneville. The court concluded that petitioners have Article III standing by demonstrating that they have an injury in fact, causation, and redressability. The court concluded, however, that petitioners failed to demonstrate statutory standing, which requires them to be "aggrieved" within the meaning of the Federal Power Act section 313(b) (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 8251(b), and the Administrative Procedure Act section 10, 5 U.S.C. 702. In this case, the zone-of-interests test was not satisfied where petitioners' interests are not arguably protected by section 211A of the FPA. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "NRU V. FERC" on Justia Law