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News Release: April 2, 2020

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Coronavirus Update: FERC Acts to Help Regulated Entities Manage Compliance

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Neil Chatterjee today detailed the proactive steps the Commission is taking to help regulated entities manage their potential enforcement and compliance-related burdens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Regulated entities are taking extraordinary steps to ensure continuity for our energy systems during this unprecedented time. We’re doing all we can to lift regulatory burdens and uncertainty, so that the focus can remain on critical front-line efforts,” Chatterjee said.

The Chairman today announced that the Commission will exercise appropriate prosecutorial discretion in addressing events that arise during the emergency period. “I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: The Commission will not second-guess the good faith actions that regulated entities take in the face of this emergency.”

Enforcement staff will take the current emergency into account when evaluating compliance programs as part of its analyses under the Penalty Guidelines, or as part of an audit for operations taking place during the emergency. Staff also will take the crisis into account in assessing the timeliness of self-reports, including the self-report credit under the Penalty Guidelines.

“While I encourage regulated entities to take advantage of the open lines of informal communication with Enforcement staff, I highlight two additional procedural options for obtaining more formal enforcement or compliance-related guidance—standards of conduct waivers and no-action letters,” the Chairman said.

Chatterjee announced the creation of two Commission staff task forces to expeditiously process standards of conduct waiver requests and no-action letters. The FERC.gov coronavirus, standards of conduct and no-action letter web pages have been updated with staff contact information and enhanced procedures to facilitate prompt resolution of these matters.

Chatterjee also confirmed that the pandemic qualifies as an emergency, triggering the suspension of certain standards of conduct posting requirements in the Commission’s regulations. Under those regulations, if an entity faces a disruption for more than one month and cannot resume standards of conduct posting obligations as a result of COVID-19, it should file a waiver request.

Among other measures announced today:

  • Enforcement staff will be in communication with the subjects of continuing non-public investigations and audits, and entities with continuing compliance obligations associated with completed enforcement cases. Staff will work with each entity to provide flexibility with discovery-related or other deadlines through July 31, 2020. Subjects are encouraged to reach out directly to OE staff with any questions about deadlines.
  • Enforcement staff will not begin any new audits until July 31, 2020.
  • Enforcement staff will only contact entities regarding surveillance inquiries that involve market behavior that could result in significant risk of harm to the market and thus require immediate attention. Inquiries not requiring immediate attention will be postponed to a later date.
  • The Commission has issued an extension to June 1, 2020 for Form Nos. 552, 60, and 61, as well as Electric Quarterly Reports. FERC will continue to expeditiously process individual waiver or extension requests.
  • Entities may delay for 60 days the submission of self-reports that involve inadvertent errors producing no significant harm to the markets, ratepayers or other market participants.
  • Chatterjee also stressed the Commission’s continuing efforts to protect markets through surveillance. “The Commission will remain vigilant during this challenging period and will continue its market surveillance efforts to protect market participants and consumers from the effects of anti-competitive behavior,” he said.

FERC Enforcement staff continues to monitor, without interruption, its surveillance data feeds and screening processes while operating in a remote status.

R-20-24


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