Wednesday, March 20, 2019

FERC Rejects SPP Confidentiality over NERC Fine

By Tom Kleckner

FERC on Monday denied SPP’s request for waivers from regulations guiding the confidential treatment of information in its explanation of how it allocated costs related to a NERC fine, the amount of which has not been publicly disclosed because of grid security concerns (ER19-97).

SPP filed the Section 205 request in October with an explanation of its allocation of costs from a NERC fine for violating reliability standards. The heavily redacted public version of the request shows the RTO asked for waivers from the requirement to include a protective agreement and from the regulations authorizing release of the filing’s confidential version to entities signing a nondisclosure agreement. SPP claimed that disclosing the information could jeopardize its system’s security.

But FERC ruled that “SPP has neither adequately supported its concerns nor justified the adverse effect that its waiver request would have on participants in this proceeding.” As the cost allocation plan did not include a proposed protective agreement, the commission dismissed it. It did so without prejudice, meaning SPP can refile its proposal for covering the penalty without the waiver request.

FERC noted intervenors would be willing to sign a protective agreement to review SPP’s filing and evaluate its proposed cost allocation.

SPP’s headquarters in Little Rock, Ark. | WER Architects

In the cost allocation filing, SPP said it paid the penalty costs using surplus funds, although a Tariff provision allows the recovery of such costs by direct assignment or cost allocations to members or market participants. The RTO’s Board of Directors approved offsetting the costs with employee compensation funds for 2018, an approach SPP said it adopted from FERC Order 693, which it said suggested RTOs and ISOs could tie employee compensation to compliance with reliability standards as a means of reducing repeat incurrences of penalties. The order also declined to provide grid operators blanket authority to recover penalty costs from members on a generic basis.

Under the board’s recommendation, the reduction in compensation would be reflected as a surplus in the administrative fee’s true-up for 2018, which would reduce the fee for 2019.

The West Texas Municipal Power Agency (WTMPA), created by the cities of Lubbock, Brownfield, Floydada and Tulia to increase their negotiating strength, intervened in the docket. While it did not protest the cost allocation plan or waiver request, it urged FERC to “strictly and expressly limit such findings to this case” if it approved them. The agency asked that interested parties be allowed access to information about the penalties and cost allocation, contending that it would be otherwise impossible for ratepayers to determine whether the penalty’s allocation was just, reasonable and not unduly discriminatory.

FERC regulations provide that any participant in a proceeding can make a written request to the filer for a copy of the document’s complete, nonpublic version. The request must include a signed copy of the filer’s protective agreement and a statement of the person’s “right to party or participant status or a copy of their motion to intervene or notice of intervention.”

SPP members Evergy, Oklahoma Gas & Electric and Western Farmers Electric Cooperative also intervened in the docket.