Photo by Ryan McKnight, Flickr
Ryan Mc Knight Flickr

Chairman Chatterjee: FERC will Remain ‘Flexible’ in its COVID-19 Response

March 19, 2020
FERC will also use its enforcement discretion to consider extenuating circumstances as it makes evaluations on compliance and enforcement

As FERC itself moves to conducting its conferences and other work to teleconferencing, the commission’s chairman, Neil Chatterjee, said the energy industry continues to take steps to protect the health and safety of the public and its employees. Chatterjee said he is directing FERC to take similar steps to protect itself while ensuring the continued safe operations of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure.

“Most commission employees are on telework status, until further notice, and our headquarters will continue to be closed to all outside visitors, unless they are cleared for entry by the Office of the Executive Director,” Chatterjee said.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Carmen Cintron has postponed one hearing scheduled to start April 7 and will make case-specific calls on other hearings as their start dates approach. ALJ settlement conferences will continue via teleconference.

“I’m in close and regular contact with my fellow commissioners and senior agency leaders, and we along with the commission’s workforce, are committed to continuing to carry out our important work and fulfilling our statutory obligations as seamlessly as possible during this time,” Chatterjee said.

Chatterjee named Caroline Wozniak as FERC’s main point of contact for industry questions about COVID-19 and FERC’s jurisdictional activities. Wozniak is a senior policy advisor in FERC’s Office of Energy Market Regulation as well as a former adviser to ex FERC Chairman Norman C. Bay.

FERC is also extending deadlines for certain required filings to May 1, 2020.

“Consistent with our goal of being flexible and responsive in these extraordinary times, I want to make clear that the commission will be receptive to requests for other deadline extensions and requests for other forms relief, as we all continue to work through this crisis. For example, one regulated entity filed a request to waive a tariff requirement for face-to-face meetings. Today we granted that request, and similar requests will get the commission’s full attention,” Chatterjee said.

FERC will also use its enforcement discretion to consider extenuating circumstances as it makes evaluations on compliance and enforcement. For example, the FERC Office of Enforcement is postponing audit visits and investigative testimony and will adjust other deadlines as needed.

“The commission is actively exploring other ways we can lift burdens on the regulated community. I’m heartened that the companies we regulate are putting the health and safety of their workers and employees first, and that often means that companies are having to do a great deal of their work remotely,” Chatterjee said.

FERC is also working with NERC, the DOE, the DHS and the CDC to address energy infrastructure issues stemming from COVID-19. The DOE’s Electric Sector Coordinating Council is serving as a liaison between government agencies and the electric utility industry, Chatterjee said.

Furthermore, FERC is working with individual state governments where requested to see if there is any assistance it can offer within its jurisdiction.

“These interactions are important to help anticipate and quickly address issues before they become problems,” Chatterjee said.

Chatterjee concluded his remarks by thanking FERC’s staff and the energy industry employees who are working under unusual circumstances to keep the lights on.

“I recognize that this pandemic will touch many of us personally in ways we could not have fathomed. We do not know what the weeks and months ahead will look like, but I am confident that together we will get through this crisis. Our energy workforce is keeping the lights on during this national emergency, and I want to acknowledge their tireless work and dedication to our critical mission,” Chatterjee said.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!