It’s unlikely that the 2013 regulatory lineup at the Department of Energy will be as big a hit as its long-ago efforts to get Americans to turn right on a red light. (It saves fuel, especially in delivery trucks.) But for in-house lawyers and their outside counsel, Energy and related agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are still revving their engines.
At an NLJ Regulatory Summit panel in December, a team of energy regulation experts considered the issues ahead in 2013. The panel included Shemin Proctor, Washington managing partner at Andrews Kurth; Daniel Cohen, a Department of Energy lawyer; Nina Plaushin, vice president, federal and legislative affairs, at ITC Holdings Corp.; Leslie Thornton, general counsel at the Washington Gas Light Co.; and William Taylor III, vice president, government and regulatory affairs, at Calpine Corp. Among the areas they said were likely to generate the most regulatory heat:
TRANSMISSION: It’s an order designed to help stimulate construction of a more efficient electricity grid, and it affects every step of the planning, building and funding process for new transmission lines. FERC’s Order No. 1000 began taking effect in October, and the regulatory activity around its implementation will grow in 2013. Order No. 1000 requires regional planning efforts in transmission line construction — which is likely to create a grab bag of regulations that FERC will need to iron out, as well as plenty of questions for energy company counsel. And it opens competition for transmission projects that previously would have been assigned to an energy company that had held the franchise in a particular region. “This is a fundamental change in the way we look at transmission,” Plaushin said.
SHALE EXTRACTION: Shale oil has reinvigorated domestic energy production, but the extraction methods — such as fracking — are triggering a bevy of state and local regulations. And the federal government is taking a far more active role as well through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management. “Everybody is stepping into the mix,” Proctor said. Another byproduct of the shale surge: renewed interest by some in Congress about regulations for U.S. energy exports.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Not long after taking office in 2009, the president mandated new efficiency standards for appliances and commercial products. Four years later, the list of products covered continues to grow. In 2013, expect battery chargers and distribution transformers used by utilities to join the list, Cohen said.