November 17, 2018

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Relaxed Enforcement Concerning Vegetation Management Compliance Plans in Response to Irma’s Devastation

On September 12, 2017, FERC and NERC released a joint statement and guidance encouraging ongoing interutility cooperation among all utilities in response to Hurricane Irma, which ravaged areas in Florida and Georgia, neighboring states, Puerto Rico, and US territories in the Caribbean. The statement emphasized that the utility response to Hurricane Irma will likely be among the largest industry restoration efforts in US history. In it, FERC and NERC encourage utilities to lend personnel skilled in vegetation management to those utilities in need as a result of the hurricane.

In addition to calling on the longstanding practice of mutual assistance following natural disasters, the joint statement also reassures utilities that to the extent this effort to provide assistance makes it difficult to meet their existing transmission vegetation management plans, FERC and NERC are willing to exercise their enforcement discretion and may not penalize utilities for noncompliance with the FAC-003 Reliability Standard, which can otherwise result in penalties of up to about $1 million per violation per day. As noted in the announcement, FAC-003 itself also provides a degree of flexibility to modify the vegetation management plan in response to unanticipated events during the year. Such modifications should only occur following a thorough analysis of a utility's unique circumstances.

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J. Daniel Skees, Energy attorney, Morgan Lewis
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J. Daniel Skees represents electric utilities before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other agencies on rate, regulatory, and transaction matters. He handles rate and tariff proceedings, electric utility and holding company transactions, reliability standards development and compliance, and FERC rulemaking proceedings. The mandatory electric reliability standards under Section 215 of the Federal Power Act are a major focus of Dan’s practice. He advises clients regarding compliance with reliability standards, and helps them participate in the...

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Stephen Spina, Morgan Lewis, Energy attorney
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Stephen M. Spina represents electric utilities and other electric industry participants before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in restructuring, market investigations, and Federal Power Act regulatory matters. He advises electric utilities on issues relating to market pricing, transmission, reliability standards compliance, rate matters, and participation in regional transmission organizations, including capacity and energy market issues. His representation also extends to audits and investigations before FERC’s Office of Enforcement, as well as enforcement and audit proceedings involving the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

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Serge Agbre, Morgan Lewis, Energy Lawyer, FERC Compliance,
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Serge Agbre represents electric, natural gas, and other energy industry participants in a variety of regulatory, transactional, and litigation matters before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). His practice includes related court appeals. Serge represents clients in enforcement matters, rate proceedings, certificate proceedings, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) matters connected to gas infrastructure projects. He also represents electric utilities in rate proceedings, tariff proceedings, and reliability standard compliance and enforcement matters...

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