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FERC Rejects Extending Comment Deadline for DOE Grid Reliability Proposal

FERC has rejected calls from the oil and gas industry and others, including environmental groups, to extend the public comment period over the Department of Energy's (DOE) recent proposal to provide reliability and resiliency compensation to coal and nuclear baseload generators.

In a notice Wednesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied several motions to extend the deadline over the proposal, reaffirming that comments are due on or before Oct. 23, and reply comments are due on or before Nov. 7 [RM18-1]. FERC did not elaborate as to why it denied the requests. FERC began accepting public comments over the proposal on Oct. 2.

A coalition of energy industry associations, including the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGA) and the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA), on Oct. 3 submitted a joint motion to extend the deadline for submitting comments. The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and several state-level oil and gas associations did likewise two days later.

"The time frame for comments provided in the notice is far too short to allow stakeholders to submit careful analysis on this complex and significant rulemaking," said API, INGA and NGSA in their joint motion. "Given the importance and complexity of this issue, we recommend that the Commission provide 90 days for interested parties to provide initial comments on the NOPR and 45 days for reply comments. At a minimum, the Commission should provide for a comment period of not less than 60 days.

"To our knowledge, the Commission has never allowed less than 60 days for public comment on any major rulemaking...[and] while 'agencies may use shorter periods when justified,' there is no justification in the notice or the NOPR for circumventing the required bare minimum of a 60-day comment period. To the extent the NOPR implies that an emergency exists to justify the abbreviated schedule, publicly available information from the DOE and North American Electric Reliability Corporation demonstrates that no such emergency exists."

IPAA said the independent producers it represents "respectfully request that the Commission act on this motion promptly to reassure markets -- electricity markets, the energy markets that supply fuel for generation, and markets that rely on electricity for residential, commercial and industrial uses -- that adequate time and resources will be devoted to this vital issue."

Environmental groups, including Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club, had also supported extending the comment period.

Citing reliability and resiliency, DOE Secretary Rick Perry directed FERC to develop a proposed rule to allow cost-recovery for electric generating units that have a 90-day on-site supply of fuel. The move has been widely interpreted as a potential thumb on the scales favoring coal and nuclear power plants, especially given the Trump administration's pro-coal rhetoric.

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