FERC orders PacifiCorp to respond to allegations of reliability violations

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on April 15 ordered PacifiCorp to explain why the company should not be assessed a proposed civil penalty of $42 million for violating FERC reliability standards on its bulk electric system.

PacifiCorp is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

In a FERC Staff Report attached to FERC’s order, FERC Office of Enforcement (OE) staff alleges that PacifiCorp violated the Federal Power Act and regulations by failing to comply with a Commission-approved reliability standard developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) involving transmission line facility ratings methodology.

Specifically, PacifiCorp adopted a facility ratings methodology that required the consideration of clearance measurements consistent with the National Electric Safety Code (NESC), FERC said.

FERC enforcement staff found that clearance measurements on a majority of PacifiCorp’s bulk electric system transmission lines were incorrect under the NESC. As these clearance measurements were used to calculate PacifiCorp’s facility ratings, PacifiCorp’s facility ratings were thus inconsistent with its facility ratings methodology, FERC said. 

Moreover, FERC enforcement staff alleges that PacifiCorp was generally aware of incorrect clearances on its bulk electric system since at least 2007, when FERC’s reliability standards became mandatory, but failed to specifically identify all of the clearance problems and remedy them in a timely manner.

Enforcement staff alleges that PacifiCorp’s violations began on August 31, 2009, when the company implemented its facility ratings methodology policy, and that at least some of the violations continued until August 2017, when PacifiCorp completed remediation of all of its incorrect clearances to make them consistent with its facility ratings methodology.

Enforcement staff’s investigation into PacifiCorp’s incorrect clearances began in 2012 after learning of the Wood Hollow wildfire that lasted from June 23 to July 1, 2012 in Sanpete County, Utah. 

FERC enforcement staff alleges that the inadequate clearance involved in the fire was just one example of clearance violations prevalent on PacifiCorp’s bulk electric system.

FERC noted that its order makes clear that issuance of the decision does not indicate Commission adoption or endorsement of the Staff Report. 

PacifiCorp has 30 days to respond to the Commission’s order.