BOISE – Calling it the first of its kind, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has filed suit against the Idaho Public Utility Commission in federal court, claiming the Idaho PUC violated the long-standing Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act.
The suit stems from contracts between two wind-energy producers and Idaho Power, which the Idaho PUC ultimately ruled were null because they were not signed prior to Dec. 14, 2010, when the qualification threshold for smaller energy providers was reduced from 10 megawatts to just 100 kilowatts.
Both providers at the center of the suit, Wasatch Wind Intermountain, which operates Grouse Creek Wind Park and Grouse Creek Wind Park II, and Murphy Flat, had agreements in place with Idaho Power. But, according to the suit, the Idaho PUC voided those contracts in the summer of 2011 because they were completed after Dec. 10, 2010 and exceeded the 100 kilowatt limit.
FERC explained in its suit that PURPA was put in place to help level the playing field for upstart energy companies, especially those using power generation methods that minimized or eliminated usage of fossil fuels. PURPA, passed in 1978, also demands that FERC establish requirements for electric utilities purchase of power from qualifying power production facilities and uphold them.
When the Idaho PUC voided the contracts between the two wind energy companies and Idaho Power, FERC, in its suit, said it warned the Idaho PUC it would take action to ensure the contracts are observed.
The Idaho PUC has not yet responded to the suit, which was filed Feb. 22.