Does FERC have the backbone for another jurisdictional turf war?
Mark Hand is senior editor for Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Lost in the debate over regional transmission organization (RTO) consolidation in the Northeast and market power investigations is another controversy quietly simmering over a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) plan that strives to build a thicker wall between electric and gas transmission owners and all of their affiliates.
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) on uniform standards of conduct for transmission providers seemed rather innocuous at the time of its release in late September. Many parties viewed the plan as FERC's attempt to consolidate electric and gas affiliate standards of conduct in appreciation of the convergence of the two industries during the past 10 years.
Tucked inside the rulemaking, though, were proposals by the commission to flex its jurisdictional muscle over transmission companies and their employees. In fact, FERC members had an inkling when they issued the NOPR that certain utilities and state regulators would protest provisions in the plan, particularly the section that requires transmission owners to separate employees managing bundled retail sales from those managing the transmission necessary to accomplish that bundled service.