Energy industry stakeholders face unprecedented compliance challenges in today’s constantly evolving regulatory environment. With the continuing focus on market manipulation by both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), companies involved in energy markets need to know the boundaries of the two jurisdictions and what can be done to protect against new regulatory burdens or to avoid investigation. In addition, many utilities and energy companies will shortly face Dodd-Frank issues from the CFTC, which will likely scrutinize Dodd-Frank recordkeeping and exemption claims (i.e. forward exclusion, end user, registration) as part of its focus on compliance and enforcement.
Schiff Hardin’s Energy Compliance and Enforcement practice is dedicated to helping energy companies meet these challenges, providing regulatory compliance, investigation, negotiation and litigation capabilities along with comprehensive guidance about FERC and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) requirements that affect their businesses.
Programs that Minimize Risk
Where possible, our approach begins with compliance. We recognize that companies have differing business interests and objectives and thus face different FERC compliance issues. We work closely with senior management as well as employees on the front lines to prepare and implement internal FERC and NERC compliance programs to suit their company’s business model and objectives and minimize the risk of enforcement proceedings. We also review and recommend improvements to existing compliance programs.
Our attorneys have prepared compliance programs for companies engaged in all aspects of the natural gas industry — including marketing and trading, gathering, intrastate transportation, and local distribution of gas — as well as for electric utilities engaged in wholesale electric market transactions. We have developed customized training materials and conducted on-site training programs focused upon a variety of FERC and NERC compliance issues including, but not limited to:
- FERC’s market manipulation rules
- Standards of conduct requirements
- FERC’s natural gas capacity rules
- FERC market-based rate rules and regulations, and
- FERC merger authority.
With experience in compliance matters related to other agencies (including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Department of Justice), we bring an intentional, multidisciplinary approach to helping clients sync their entire compliance regime together with their FERC compliance obligations.
We are also able to assist clients in navigating the complexities of FERC Enforcement investigations by complementing our comprehensive compliance practice with top-flight litigation experience. Having represented a variety of energy companies over the years, we assist our clients in a comprehensive way, infusing our roles as advocates with the knowledge of our clients’ business objectives and of regulatory priorities. Where appropriate, we draw on our general commercial litigation experience and our white collar litigation experience to tailor our assistance to the particulars of any FERC Enforcement action.
Leading the Way Through a Shifting Compliance Landscape
Our attorneys have been at the forefront of the development and evolution of the relatively new NERC regulatory regime. With an attorney and an auditor who served in FERC’s Office of Enforcement on our team, we are able to offer highly informed advice on all aspects of this regulation.
Many entities in the electric power industry must comply with NERC reliability standards. Non-compliance can result in significant monetary penalties along with very costly corrective actions or “mitigation” plans. As NERC reforms its compliance monitoring and enforcement program to shift its focus to more significant reliability risks, average penalties have increased over time and are expected to climb in the future.