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Lawmakers Voice Opposition as FERC Closes Comments on DOE Grid Resiliency NOPR

More than a dozen members of Congress have signaled their opposition to implementing the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed rulemaking to reform the reliability and resiliency of the electricity grid in the final days for reply comments, which FERC was scheduled to close Tuesday.

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) said DOE's request for a 60-day comment period "does not provide adequate time to review and consider the market implications and the potential unintended effect of raising electricity costs,” according to a Nov. 1 filing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [RM18-1].

"Given this, we ask you to continue addressing this matter through existing proceedings at the federal and regional level, rather than quickly moving to make a sweeping, top-down decision in the near term.

“If fixes are needed to ensure the reliability of the markets at just and reasonable rates, it is our hope that the Commission would do so in a deliberative and fair way that bears in mind that no resource is without flaws and that all provide a range of necessary attributes."

In a separate filing, 14 Democrats representing a total of eight states said they had "serious concerns" about DOE's proposal and the timeline the agency imposed on FERC.

"Unfortunately, DOE's proposal does not fully recognize transformations within the electricity sector and the inherent link between reliability and resiliency and reducing carbon emissions," they wrote. "Directing FERC to prioritize specific generation sources is contrary to FERC's mission...We are concerned that the rule could reverse positive developments and deployment of low and zero-emitting sources and technologies and ignores the effects that our transmission and distribution systems have on reliability and resiliency compared to fuel supply."

Under DOE's notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), FERC would impose rules on independent system operators and regional transmission organizations "to ensure that certain reliability and resilience attributes of electric generation resources are fully valued."

The rule would allow "for the recovery of costs of fuel-secure generation units that make our grid reliable and resilient," according to DOE Secretary Rick Perry. Eligible units would have to "be able to provide essential energy and ancillary reliability service and have a 90-day fuel supply on site in the event of supply disruptions caused by emergencies, extreme weather, or natural or man-made disasters."

Coal and some electricity organizations have shown support for the NOPR, while natural gas industry groups have vehemently opposed it. It has also been criticized by several former FERC commissioners and chairmen, and by members of a House Committee on Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

One recent analysis concluded that subsidies included in the NOPR would cost as much as $10.6 billion a year, with the vast majority of the money going to a handful of coal and nuclear companies.

Amidst a flood of filings on the final scheduled day of initial public comment for the NOPR last month, FERC's web-based system experienced technical difficulties, prompting a 24-hour extension by the Commission. By that time, hundreds of filings had already been submitted to the NOPR docket. FERC is expected to take action on the NOPR sometime next month.

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