May 21, 2020

COVID-19 Regulated Entities

Regulated Entities 

The Vermont Public Utility Commission (“PUC” or “Commission”) is responsible for the general administration of Vermont public utilities, specifically including those responsible for electrical distribution and transmission, natural gas, and energy efficiency programs, as well aswireline telecommunications and cable companies, and certain private water companies. The Commission also overseessiting projects by companies engaged in renewable energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, and biomass), as well as wireless telecommunications facilities (infrastructure providers and carriers). Since March 17, 2020, the Commission has been attempting to adopt its procedures, guidelines, and protocols to conform more closely with Governor Scott’s Stay Home / Stay Safe Order to the extent possible. 

  1. Order Extending Applicability of Guidance on Making Certain Filings and Announcing That Commission Will Schedule Remote Public Hearings and Public Information Sessions (05.21.2020). The Commission extends until October 27, 2020 all of its previous guidance concerning filing confidential documents and notices of appeal. The Commission will start scheduling public hearings via GoToMeeting (with telephone options for those who have no high speed internet access), and will consider on a case-by-case basis whether to hold remote public information sessions immediately prior to scheduled remote public hearings. The Commission declines to undertake any site visits through June 30, 2020.

  2. Order Granting Further Extension of Commissioning Deadlines and Seeking Comments on Request to Extend Interconnection Agreement Execution Deadlines (05.21.2020). The Commission grants a one-year extension of all commissioning deadlines for net-metering and standard-offer projects where the existing deadlines fall on or after March 25 through December 31, 2020. The Commission seeks comments on a one-year extension for execution deadlines associated with interconnection agreements for net-metering and standard-offer projects. The Commission pushes to a separate existing rulemaking proceeding a request by Green Lantern and others on the requirement to provide full copies of petitions to adjoining owners on net-metering projects via certified mail. 

  3. Vermont Public Utility Commission Adopts Emergency Rule 2.500, Effective 4/30/20. VT PUC Emergency Rule 2.500 amends various filing and procedural requirements and provides alternative procedures to reduce in-person contact and risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. While the PUC strongly encourages using ePUC to initiate proceedings and for filings, the rule allows filings by email to the Clerk at puc.clerk@vermont.gov (with specific follow-up by mail). The Rule also addresses amended requirements for the use of town grand lists to compile lists of adjoining property owners, and provides the ability to obtain the information from specified online sources including the Vermont Center for Geographic Information database, with verification from the relevant municipal office. The rule also provides an alternative to required notarization of oaths. 

    Among other things, the emergency rule addresses the method of service for advance submission and copies of applications applicable to net-metering system applications and petitions. It also amends rules relating to service and contents of notice to adjoining property owners for petitions to construct electric and gas facilities in Vermont pursuant to 30 V.S.A. Section 248.

  4. Order Confirming Commission Will Not Hold Public Hearings, Site Visits, or Public Information Sessions Through the End of May 2020. This Order extends the current moratorium on public hearings, site visits, and public information sessions through the end of May 2020.” 

  5. Order Requesting Comments on Potential Further Extension of Commissioning Deadlines. In this order, the Public Utility Commission establishes a deadline of May 13 for comments on whether to extend commissioning deadlines for net metered and standard offer generation projects by one year from the last commissioning deadline established for a project (i.e., a deadline of May 1, 2020 would be moved to April 30, 2021).  The Commission expresses an openness to considering alterative extensions, or opposition to further extensions.
  6. Order re Filing of Notices of Appeal During COVID-19 Outbreak. This order clarifies that, notwithstanding anything in the VT Rules of Appellate Procedure to the contrary, a notice of appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court will be considered filed as of the date of an email with the notice to the PUC Clerk (as distinct from an ePUC filing). Most importantly: the subject line of all such emails sent to the clerk must start with the words “Notice of appeal attached” and must include the case number in which the order (or orders) being appealed was issued. The order is effective through June 1, 2020.
  7. Order Clarifying Order re Certificates of Public Good and Governor's Emergency Declaration (Case No. 20-0789-INV). Clarifies that the April 16, 2020 Order does not require that the Commission specifically designate a particular project as critical infrastructure for that project to continue construction.
  8. Downs Rachlin Martin Response to PUC Memorandum re: Access to Grand Lists for Identifying Adjoining Property Owners (Case No. 20-0789-INV). DRM's response to the PUC April 10, 2020 memorandum on obtaining adjoining property owner information from certified grand lists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  9. Order re: Certificates of Public Good and Governor's Emergency Declaration (Case No. 20-0789-INV). Reminds CPG holders that they may not engage in any action, including construction, that would otherwise be authorized by their CPGs if that action is in violation of any COVID-19-related Executive Order or addenda or agency guidance issued in response to such orders or addenda.
  10. Order Blocking Disconnection of Utility Service(Case No. 20-0703-PET) – 03/18/2020: Prevents involuntary disconnection for gas, electric, and telecommunications for all residential ratepayers until April 30, 2020. 
  1. Memorandum re: Changes to Commission Operations – 03/20/2020: Establishes that public hearings, site visits, and public information sessions are postponed through end of April; establishes use of teleconferences and webinars for hearings, status conferences, and oral arguments, as well as pending evidentiary hearings, on case by case basis; and addresses filing date for “legacy” (non-ePUC) cases.
  1. Order Waiving Two Procedural Requirements That Require Close Personal Contact (Case No. 20-0789-INV)  03/26/2020: Waives requirements for documents to be notarized, as well as requirement for siting-based filings to be reviewed in public offices.
  1. Order Expanding Temporary Moratorium on Involuntary Utility Service to Non-Residential Ratepayers and Certain Water Companies and Establishing Additional Process (Case No. 20-0703-PET) – 03.27.2018: Establishes comment deadline of April 24, 2020 for any additional comments, including on the issue of accumulated arrearages during the moratorium.
  1. Order Granting Extension of Commissioning Deadlines (Case No. 20-0789-INV) – 03/20/2020:  extending commissioning deadlines for net metering and standard offer projects to September 1, 2020. 
  1. Amended Order Waiving Procedural Requirements that Require Close Personal Contact (Case No. 20-0789-INV) –03/27/2020: changes prior order to allow for mail delivery to be via first class mail in lieu of certified mail (particularly for net metered solar projects).
  1. Order Re Filing of Confidential Documents (Case No. 20-0789-INV) – 03/31/2020): sets requirements for filing of confidential information via email only, and extending protocol to annual reports filed with the Department pursuant to 30 VSA 22. 
  1. Memorandum re: Grand Lists (Case No. 20-0789-INV) – 04/07/2020: requesting comments on difficulties obtaining adjoining property owner information from municipalities and certifying grand lists through town clerks, with comments due by 04/21/2020.

Have more questions about the Vermont Public Utility Commission Orders? Contact Will or Nancy.

Will Dodge

Nancy Malmquist

Before sending, please note: Information on www.drm.com is for general use and is not legal advice. The mailing of this email is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Anything that you send to anyone at our Firm will not be confidential or privileged unless we have agreed to represent you. In particular, please note that Downs Rachlin Martin’s Labor & Employment Group exclusively represents employers/management in labor and employment matters. Employees seeking assistance with labor or employment issues should contact a law firm that represents employees and should not provide information about your situation to DRM.

If you send this email, you confirm that you have read, understand and agree to the terms contained herein.