Power Regulation

FERC Upholds Co-op in Registry Case

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: August 5th, 2013

Challenging federal regulators is never easy, yet one Louisiana cooperative’s persistence to remove itself from reliability mandates under the bulk electric system has paid off.

Federal regulators sided with SLECA’s request to remove the co-op from reliability mandates under the bulk electric system. (Photo by: Michael Kahn)

Federal regulators sided with SLECA’s request to remove the co-op from reliability mandates under the bulk electric system. (Photo by: Michael Kahn)

Now other co-ops that believe they should not have to comply with the North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s reliability standards are looking at South Louisiana Electric Cooperative Association’s successful appeal as a possible path forward.

In a rare move, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 18 sided with SLECA and ordered NERC to remove the co-op from its compliance registry for distribution providers and load-serving entities.

“This is a big win for South Louisiana and could be a useful model for other distribution co-ops facing similar circumstances,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson.

NERC has indicated it will request a rehearing of the commission’s decision, according to attorneys involved in the case. NERC has 30 days from the date of the FERC order to file for an appeal.

SLECA came under the compliance registry in 2008 when its generation provider indicated that it should register with NERC under new federal reliability requirements in Section 215 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

“Congress’ intention was make sure the grid was covered,” said Joe Ticheli, SLECA general manager. “It was our opinion that NERC threw too broad a net and caught everybody.”

It was not until three years into compliance, which involved substantial time and resources, that co-op officials realized—after fine-combing the process and the law—that SLECA should never have registered.

“After much deliberation and consulting, we went ahead and filed an appeal,” said Steve Giroir, SLECA manager of engineering, who also served as the compliance manager to address NERC registry requirements.

The co-op first appealed to the SERC Reliability Corp., the southern regional grid reliability organization under NERC, to be removed from the registry in 2011 and lost. Then an appeal was made to NERC, which also rejected the co-op’s arguments.

That left SLECA to press its case before the federal commission in Washington that oversees the national grid watchdog.

“Then we got attorneys involved,” said Giroir. “We filed our appeal with FERC January of this year. We had no idea how long it would take.”

In the end, it wasn’t long. And the swift results were fairly surprising among those well-versed in the maze of federal standards and procedure.

“The expert attorney who handled our case before FERC said it was a big deal getting deregistered. That does not happen every day,” said Ticheli. He noted that the lawyer called it “a major accomplishment.”

SLECA’s board supported Ticheli and Giroir putting in their time and effort to see the appeals through.

“It took almost two years of very intensive work and cost to get off the list,” Ticheli said. “We had a very supportive board. They backed our efforts 100 percent. It paid off.”

Co-ops in the Pacific Northwest and in Texas have been following SLECA’s case. FERC’s order in SLECA’s favor may lead to co-ops contacting South Louisiana about its success before the federal commission.

What will SLECA tell them?

“If you feel you shouldn’t be registered and you’ve done your homework, persist, persist, persist,” said Ticheli. “You’ll have some obstacles and some hurdles—it’s time-consuming and it’s not cheap. But don’t give up.”

For questions about the SLECA order or about similar efforts, please contact Barry Lawson, NRECA’s Power Delivery & Reliability associate director, at barry.lawson@nreca.coop or 703-907-5781.

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