Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

*Time to call the question, or not…: On April 1 the Coast Guard announced it would extend the comment period regarding the NOPR, published January 15, for the potential use of Safety Management Systems on board U.S.-flagged passenger vessels. The original comment deadline was April 15, by which date 55 comments were received. This excerpt from comments from the National Transportation Safety Board seems particularly pertinent: “It has been over 8 years since the NTSB recommended SMS for US-flagged passenger vessels and over 15 years since we recommended SMS for US-flagged ferry vessels. The NTSB continues to believe that an SMS is an essential tool for enhancing safety on board all US passenger vessels and that the Coast Guard is the appropriate authority to ensure implementation and compliance with the requirements of such a system.” Want to comment on that comment? Always time to study more comments.

* So transparent things just vanish: Last October DOE published a request for comments in response to a petition that DOE should promulgate rules and establish programs allowing States to develop new nuclear technologies in partnership with DOE, including development of small nuclear reactors, electric power sources critical for net-zero carbon goals. That comment period, too, ended on April 15 and the Agency apparently received twelve comments, none of which, after more than six months, are publicly posted. As usual, for questions, DOE’s original notice contained email contact information. None of those emails work now. Maybe this idea was deemed untouchable because it originated, you know, under the previous sovereign. Keep moving…nothing to see here, citizen…

* New York renewonomics…: FERC announced last week that six of the biggest public utilities in New York filed a complaint against the New York Independent System Operator charging that current policies for integrating new projects into the transmission system are unfair and will cost the utilities big bucks. Guess why this is important? The utilities are looking ahead at all of those upcoming wind, solar, distribution and storage projects and they ain’t gonna be cheap and somebody’s gotta pay and, the utilities claim, this requires a “new funding mechanism.” Current rules require a developer to pay for the interconnection project but then the utilities have to take on operation and maintenance. The utilities project $1.2 billion in added costs just from projects proposed in 2019! (Attention NY ratepayers – close your eyes: that $1.2 billion doesn’t include project costs.) The filing cites National Grid as an example. In 2015 NG had 10 interconnection requests. In 2017 – 127. Comments are due to FERC by April 19. There are already quite a few peeps and groups seeking intervenor status. Did I mention the utilities want this “fast tracked” and they request “expedited consideration” and “an order granting this Complaint” by June 9, 2021? Maybe FERC can use this policy issue as a way to introduce and advance its new concerns about public participation (first meeting was Friday…)

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