SNL Financial News Covers Akin Gump Mid-Year Energy Briefing

Akin Gump’s recent mid-year energy briefing was the focus of the SNL Financial News article “State/federal tension seen emerging in energy policy developments.” Chip Cannon, a partner and co-chair of the firm’s energy regulation, markets and enforcement practice, and Stacey Mitchell, a partner in the environment and natural resources practice, are both quoted from the program, which looked at the future of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and environmental enforcement under the Trump administration.

Cannon began by referencing a Department of Energy (DOE) study that has some renewable energy advocacy groups concerned that it could be used as a basis to provide out-of-market support for struggling coal and nuclear power plants. The study was ordered to examine whether regulation, taxes and subsidy policies were forcing baseload plants into early retirement.

Cannon expressed concern about an assertion by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that state and local policies encouraging clean energy were raising national security issues due to reliability questions tied to renewables’ intermittent nature. He said that if DOE were to take “action to support one group of generators to the detriment of others, expect FERC to be very involved because DOE actually has very, very little oversight over the power markets.”

FERC has been without a quorum to act on much of its workload since February, the article points out, but that could soon be resolved following two recent nominations of Republican commissioners by President Trump. As for the impact any new commissioners, Republican or Democrat, will have on policy, Cannon said FERC has typically been “fairly apolitical,” with commissioners historically working together and negotiating to put forth unanimous decisions.

On the topic of environmental enforcement, Mitchell said not to expect the federal government to be “bringing the heat,” predicting instead a coming decline in enforcement cases from the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department. While states may take the lead on promoting less carbon-intensive energy sources, she said many wouldn’t have the resources to step up on enforcement too.

“Currently, EPA sends a fair amount of money to state entities for support of environmental health and safety issues,” Mitchell said, so if there are major cuts to EPA’s budget, states would see a direct result in cuts to enforcement. As a result, she said citizen suits would fill in the gap, though they likely would not completely substitute the amount of enforcement EPA has done in past years.

For more on the energy briefing, please click here.