[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 77 (Wednesday, April 22, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 22385-22395]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-09225]


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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

18 CFR Part 40

[Docket No. RM14-13-000; Order No. 808]


Communications Reliability Standards

AGENCY: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: Pursuant to the Federal Power Act, the Commission approves two 
revised Reliability Standards, COM-001-2 (Communications) and COM-002-4 
(Operating Personnel Communications Protocols), developed by the North 
American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which the Commission 
has certified as the Electric Reliability Organization responsible for 
developing and enforcing mandatory Reliability Standards. The two 
revised Reliability Standards will enhance reliability by, among other 
things, requiring adoption of predefined communication protocols, 
annual assessment of those protocols and operating personnel's 
adherence thereto, training on the protocols, and use of three-part 
communications. In addition, the Commission directs NERC to develop a 
modification to Reliability Standard COM-001-2 that addresses internal 
communications capabilities that could involve the issuance or receipt 
of Operating Instructions or other communications that could have an 
impact on reliability.

DATES: This rule will become effective June 22, 2015.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 
    Vincent Le (Technical Information), Office of Electric Reliability, 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Washington, 
DC 20426, (202) 502-6204, [email protected].
    Michael Gandolfo (Technical Information), Office of Electric 
Reliability, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street 
NE., Washington, DC 20426, (202) 502-6817, [email protected].
    Julie Greenisen (Legal Information), Office of the General Counsel, 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street NE., Washington, 
DC 20426, (202) 502-6362, [email protected].

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

[[Page 22386]]

Order No. 808 Final Rule

    1. Pursuant to section 215 of the Federal Power Act (FPA),\1\ the 
Commission approves two Reliability Standards, COM-001-2 
(Communications) and COM-002-4 (Operating Personnel Communications 
Protocols), developed by the North American Electric Reliability 
Corporation (NERC), which the Commission has certified as the Electric 
Reliability Organization responsible for developing and enforcing 
mandatory Reliability Standards. The Commission also approves three new 
defined terms for addition to the NERC Glossary of Terms Used in 
Reliability Standards (NERC Glossary), violation risk factors, 
violation severity levels, and NERC's proposed implementation plan for 
both revised standards. Further, pursuant to section 215(d)(5) of the 
FPA, the Commission directs that NERC develop one modification to 
Reliability Standard COM-001-2 that addresses internal communications 
capabilities to the extent that such communications could involve the 
issuance or receipt of Operating Instructions or other communications 
that could have an impact on reliability.
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    \1\ 16 U.S.C. 824o (2012).
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    2. Reliability Standard COM-001-2 is intended to establish a clear 
set of requirements for the communications capabilities that applicable 
functional entities must have in place and maintain. Reliability 
Standard COM-002-4 requires applicable entities to develop 
communication protocols with certain minimum requirements, including 
use of three-part communication when issuing Operating Instructions.\2\ 
Reliability Standard COM-002-4 also sets out certain communications 
training requirements for all issuers and recipients of Operating 
Instructions, and establishes a flexible enforcement approach for 
failure to use three-part communication during non-emergencies and a 
``zero-tolerance,'' i.e., without exception, enforcement approach for 
failure to use three-part communication during an emergency.\3\
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    \2\ NERC proposes to define Operating Instruction as ``[a] 
command by operating personnel responsible for the Real-time 
operation of the interconnected Bulk Electric System to change or 
preserve the state, status, output, or input of an Element of the 
Bulk Electric System or Facility of the Bulk Electric System. (A 
discussion of general information and of potential options or 
alternatives . . . is not considered an Operating Instruction.).''
    \3\ See NERC Petition at 3 (``during Emergencies, operating 
personnel must use the documented communication protocols for three-
part communications without exception.'').
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    3. We find that Reliability Standards COM-001-2 and COM-002-4 will 
enhance reliability over the currently-effective versions of these 
Communications (COM) standards in several respects. For example, the 
Reliability Standards as modified expand applicability to include 
generator operators and distribution providers, eliminate certain 
ambiguities in the currently-effective standards, and clarify that the 
use of three-part communication is required for issuance and receipt of 
all Operating Instructions, with a zero-tolerance approach to 
enforcement of that requirement during an emergency. However, we are 
not persuaded that COM-001-2 adequately covers all situations in which 
Operating Instructions are issued or received and, therefore, direct 
NERC to develop a modification to that standard that addresses our 
concern, as further discussed below.

I. Background

A. Regulatory Background

    4. Section 215 of the FPA requires a Commission-certified Electric 
Reliability Organization (ERO) to develop mandatory and enforceable 
Reliability Standards, subject to Commission review and approval.\4\ 
Once approved, the Reliability Standards may be enforced by the ERO 
subject to Commission oversight, or by the Commission independently.\5\ 
In 2006, the Commission certified NERC as the ERO pursuant to FPA 
section 215.\6\
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    \4\ 16 U.S.C. at 824o(c) and (d).
    \5\ See id. at 824o(e).
    \6\ North American Electric Reliability Corp., 116 FERC ] 
61,062, order on reh'g and compliance, 117 FERC ] 61,126 (2006), 
aff'd sub nom. Alcoa Inc. v. FERC, 564 F.3d 1342 (D.C. Cir. 2009).
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    5. The Commission approved Reliability Standard COM-001-1 in Order 
No. 693.\7\ In addition, the Commission directed NERC to develop 
modifications to COM-001-1 to: (1) expand the applicability of the 
standard to include generator operators and distribution providers, (2) 
identify specific requirements for telecommunications facilities for 
use in normal and emergency conditions that reflect the roles of the 
applicable entities, and (3) include adequate flexibility for 
compliance to allow for the adoption of new technologies and cost-
effective solutions.\8\ Similarly, the Commission approved Reliability 
Standard COM-002-2 in Order No. 693. In addition, the Commission 
directed NERC to develop modifications to (1) include distribution 
providers as applicable entities, and (2) establish tightened 
communications protocols, especially for communications during alerts 
and emergencies.\9\
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    \7\ See Mandatory Reliability Standards for the Bulk-Power 
System, Order No. 693, FERC Stats. & Regs. ] 31,242 at P 508, order 
on reh'g, Order No. 693-A, 120 FERC ] 61,053 (2007); see also North 
American Electric Reliability Corp., Docket No. RD09-2-000 (2009) 
(delegated letter order accepting Reliability Standard COM-001-1.1).
    \8\ Order No. 693, FERC Stats. & Regs. ] 31,242 at P 508.
    \9\ Id. PP 531-535, 540.
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    6. NERC initiated Project 2006-06 to address the Order No. 693 
directives related to Reliability Standards COM-001 and COM-002, 
resulting in two proposed Reliability Standards, COM-001-2 and COM-002-
3. NERC also initiated Project 2007-02 to develop a new Reliability 
Standard (COM-003) that would require real-time system operators to use 
standardized communication protocols during normal and emergency 
operations, in order to improve situational awareness and shorten 
response time. The two projects ultimately merged when drafts of 
Reliability Standard COM-002-3 and COM-003-1 were combined into a 
single proposed Reliability Standard, COM-002-4.

B. NERC Petition

    7. On May 14, 2014, NERC filed a petition seeking approval of two 
revised communication standards, COM-001-2 (Communications) and COM-
002-4 (Operating Personnel Communications Protocols).\10\ Proposed 
Reliability Standard COM-001-2 establishes a set of requirements for 
the communications capabilities that various functional entities must 
maintain to enable communications with other identified functional 
entities. Proposed Reliability Standard COM-002-4 requires applicable 
entities to develop documented communications protocols. NERC stated in 
its petition that the proposed standards are intended to address all 
relevant Commission directives from Order No. 693. In addition, NERC 
stated that the revisions reflected in proposed COM-002-4 are intended 
to address Recommendation No. 26 from the final report on the August 
2003 blackout issued by the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force 
(Blackout Report) concerning the need to ``[t]ighten communications 
protocols, especially for communications during alerts and 
emergencies.'' \11\
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    \10\ The COM Reliability Standards are not attached to the Final 
Rule. The complete text of the two Reliability Standards is 
available on the Commission's eLibrary document retrieval system in 
Docket No. RM14-13 and is posted on the ERO's Web site, available 
at: http://www.nerc.com.
    \11\ NERC Petition at 3 (quoting U.S.-Canada Power System Outage 
Task Force, Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout in the 
United States and Canada: Causes and Recommendations at 3 (April 
2004) (Blackout Report), available at http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/oeprod/DocumentsandMedia/BlackoutFinal-Web.pdf).

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[[Page 22387]]

Reliability Standard COM-001-2
    8. NERC stated in its petition that Reliability Standard COM-001-2 
establishes requirements for Interpersonal Communication capabilities 
necessary to maintain reliability. NERC explained that proposed 
Reliability Standard COM-001-2 applies to reliability coordinators, 
balancing authorities, transmission operators, generator operators, and 
distribution providers. The proposed Reliability Standard includes 
eleven requirements and two new defined terms, ``Interpersonal 
Communication'' and ``Alternative Interpersonal Communication,'' that, 
according to NERC, collectively provide a comprehensive approach to 
establishing communications capabilities necessary to maintain 
reliability.\12\ NERC stated that the definitions provide clarity that 
an entity's communication capability must be redundant and that each of 
the capabilities must not utilize the same medium. According to NERC, 
the definitions improve the language used in the current Reliability 
Standard by eliminating the use of the more ambiguous phrases 
``adequate and reliable'' and ``redundant and diversely routed'' that 
relate to ``telecommunications facilities for the exchange of 
Interconnection and operating information.'' \13\
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    \12\ Id. at 15. NERC defines Interpersonal Communication as 
``[a]ny medium that allows two or more individuals to interact, 
consult, or exchange information'' and Alternative Interpersonal 
Communication as ``[a]ny Interpersonal Communication that is able to 
serve as a substitute for, and does not utilize the same 
infrastructure (medium) as, Interpersonal Communication used for 
day-to-day operation.'' Id.
    \13\ Id. at 15-16.
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    9. The first six requirements of COM-001-2 address the 
Interpersonal Communication capability and Alternative Interpersonal 
Communication capability of the reliability coordinator, transmission 
operator, and balancing authority functions. Requirement R1 requires 
each reliability coordinator to have Interpersonal Communication 
capability with all transmission operators and balancing authorities 
within its reliability coordinator area, and with each adjacent 
reliability coordinator within the same interconnection. Requirement R2 
requires each reliability coordinator to designate Alternative 
Interpersonal Communication capability with those same identified 
entities. Requirements R3 and R4 set out the communications capability 
requirements for a transmission operator. Under Requirement R3, 
Interpersonal Communication capability is required between the 
transmission operator's reliability coordinator, each balancing 
authority within its transmission operator area, each distribution 
provider and generator operator within its transmission operator area, 
and each adjacent transmission operator whether synchronously or 
asynchronously connected. Under Requirement R4, Alternative 
Interpersonal Communication capability must be designated between the 
transmission operator's reliability coordinator, each balancing 
authority within its transmission operator area, and each adjacent 
transmission operator. Requirements R5 and R6 set out similar 
requirements for each balancing authority, again identifying the 
specific functional entities for which the balancing authority must 
maintain Interpersonal Communication capability and for which it must 
designate Alternative Interpersonal Communication capability.
    10. Requirements R7 and R8 address the communications capability 
that distribution providers and generator operators must maintain, with 
each required to have Interpersonal Communications capability with its 
balancing authority and its transmission operator.
    11. Requirement R9 requires each reliability coordinator, 
transmission operator, and balancing authority to test its Alternative 
Interpersonal Communication capability at least once each calendar 
month, and to initiate action to repair or designate a replacement if 
the test is unsuccessful. Requirement R10 requires the same entities to 
notify applicable entities (as identified in R1, R3 and R5) of the 
detection of an Interpersonal Communication capability failure that 
lasts 30 minutes or longer. Finally, Requirement R11 requires 
distribution providers and generator operators to consult with affected 
balancing authorities and transmission operators when a failure is 
detected in their Interpersonal Communication capability, and to 
determine a mutually agreeable action for the restoration of that 
capability.
    12. NERC stated in its petition that proposed Reliability Standard 
COM-001-2 improves the currently-effective Reliability Standard by: (1) 
Eliminating terms that do not adequately specify the desired actions 
that applicable entities are expected to take in relation to their 
telecommunication facilities; (2) clearly identifying the need for 
applicable entities to be capable of Interpersonal Communication and 
Alternative Interpersonal Communication; (3) not requiring specific 
technology or systems to be utilized; and (4) including the 
distribution provider and generator operator as applicable 
entities.\14\ NERC added that COM-001-2 also addresses relevant 
directives from Order No. 693 by (1) adding generator operators and 
distribution providers as applicable entities; (2) identifying specific 
requirements for telecommunications capabilities for use in all 
operating conditions that reflect the roles of the applicable entities 
and their impact on reliability; and (3) including adequate flexibility 
to permit the adoption of new technologies.
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    \14\ NERC Petition at 18.
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    13. NERC proposed to retire currently-effective COM-001-1.1 when 
proposed Reliability Standard COM-001-2 becomes effective, with the 
exception of Requirement R4, which addresses communications protocols. 
NERC requested that Requirement R4 be retired when proposed Reliability 
Standard COM-002-4 becomes effective.\15\
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    \15\ Id. at 22.
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Reliability Standard COM-002-4
    14. NERC stated in its petition that Reliability Standard COM-002-4 
improves communications surrounding the issuance of Operating 
Instructions by requiring the use of predefined communications 
protocols to reduce the possibility of miscommunication that could lead 
to action or inaction harmful to reliability.\16\ NERC noted that the 
proposed standard requires use of the same protocols regardless of 
operating condition (i.e., Emergency or non-emergency), but requires 
operating personnel to use the documented communication protocols for 
three-part communications ``without exception'' during an 
Emergency.\17\ As NERC explained:
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    \16\ Id. at 23. NERC stated that COM-002-3 (which was adopted by 
the NERC Board but not submitted to the Commission for approval) is 
proposed for retirement in the Implementation Plan because the 
proposed Reliability Standard has been combined with proposed COM-
003-1 to create proposed Reliability Standard COM-002-4. NERC stated 
that Reliability Standard COM-002-3 has not been submitted to the 
Commission for approval, therefore, the currently effective version 
of COM-002 is COM-002-2. Id. at 23 n.43. Reliability Standard COM-
002-4 combines proposed Reliability Standard COM-002-3 and the 
former draft COM-003-1 into a single standard that addresses 
communications protocols for operating personnel in Emergency and 
non-emergency conditions. Id. at 23-24.
    \17\ Id. at 3.

    [T]he proposed Reliability Standard employs the phrase 
``Operating Instruction during an Emergency'' in certain

[[Page 22388]]

requirements (R5, R6, R7) to provide a demarcation for what is 
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subject to a zero-tolerance compliance approach and what is not.\18\

    \18\ Id. at 25.

NERC explained that, for Operating Instructions issued during non-
emergency operations, ``an entity will be assessed under a compliance 
approach that focuses on whether an entity meets the initial training 
Requirement (either R2 or R3) and whether an entity performed the 
assessment and took corrective actions according to Requirement R4.'' 
\19\
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    \19\ Id. at 26.
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    15. Finally, NERC stated that the proposed Reliability Standard 
includes distribution providers and generator operators as applicable 
entities, in accordance with the Commission's directive in Order No. 
693, and in recognition of the fact that these types of entities can be 
recipients of Operating Instructions.
    16. Proposed Reliability Standard COM-002-4 includes seven 
requirements. Requirement R1 requires entities that can both issue and 
receive Operating Instructions (balancing authorities, reliability 
coordinators and transmission operators) to have documented 
communications protocols that include a minimum set of elements, 
including use of the English language unless otherwise specified, and 
required use of three-part communications for issuance and receipt of 
Operating Instructions.\20\ Requirement R2 requires these same entities 
to conduct initial training on the communications protocols for each of 
their operating personnel responsible for the real-time operation of 
the bulk electric system. Requirement R3 requires distribution 
providers and generator operators (who generally only receive but do 
not issue Operating Instructions) to conduct initial training on three-
part communication for each of their operating personnel who can 
receive an oral two-party, person-to-person Operating Instruction, 
prior to that individual operator receiving an oral two-party, person-
to-person Operating Instruction.
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    \20\ See id. at 29.
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    17. Requirement R4 requires each balancing authority, reliability 
coordinator and transmission operator to assess, at least once every 
twelve months, its operating personnel's adherence to the documented 
communication protocols required in Requirement R1, and to provide 
feedback to its operating personnel on their performance.
    18. Requirement R5 requires balancing authorities, reliability 
coordinators and transmission operators that issue an oral two-party, 
person-to-person ``Operating Instruction during an Emergency'' to use 
three-part communication, and to take an alternative action if a 
confirmation is not received. Requirement R6 requires all applicable 
entities (balancing authorities, distribution providers, generator 
operators, and transmission operators) that receive an oral two-party, 
person-to-person ``Operating Instruction during an Emergency'' to use 
three-part communication, i.e., to repeat the Operating Instruction and 
receive confirmation from the issuer that the response was correct, or 
request that the issuer reissue the Operating Instruction. Both 
Requirement R5 and R6 include the clarification that the requirement 
does not apply to single-party to multiple-party ``burst'' Operating 
Instructions. As noted above, NERC explains that Requirements R5 and R6 
require use of three-part communication during an Emergency without 
exception, because ``use of three-part communication is critically 
important if an Emergency condition already exists, as further action 
or inaction could increase the harmful effects to the Bulk Electric 
System.'' \21\ NERC further explains, however, that applicable entities 
are expected to use three-part communications at all times when issuing 
and receiving Operating Instructions.\22\
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    \21\ Id. at 39.
    \22\ Id. at 25-26.
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    19. Finally, Requirement R7 requires that when a balancing 
authority, reliability coordinator, or transmission operator issues a 
written or oral single-party to multiple-party ``burst'' Operating 
Instruction during an Emergency, they must confirm or verify that at 
least one receiver received the Operating Instruction.
    20. NERC requested that proposed Reliability Standard COM-002-4 
become effective on the first day of the first calendar quarter that is 
twelve months after the date that the standard is approved.

C. Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

    21. On September 19, 2014, the Commission issued a Notice of 
Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to approve Reliability Standards 
COM-001-2 and COM-002-4 pursuant to FPA section 215(d)(2), along with 
the three new definitions referenced in the proposed standards 
(Operating Instruction, Interpersonal Communication, and Alternative 
Interpersonal Communication), the assigned violation risk factors and 
violation severity levels, and the proposed implementation plan for 
each standard.\23\
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    \23\ Communications Reliability Standards, Notice of Proposed 
Rulemaking, 79 FR 58709 (Sept. 30, 2014), 148 FERC ] 61,210 (2014) 
(NOPR).
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    22. In the NOPR, the Commission explained that the two revised 
standards addressed outstanding directives from Order No. 693, in that 
COM-001-2 has been expanded to include distribution providers and 
generator operators, and COM-002-4 has been expanded to include 
distribution providers.\24\ The Commission also stated that Reliability 
Standard COM-002-4 would enhance reliability by providing for improved 
communications through the required development of communication 
protocols.
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    \24\ Id. PP 22, 23.
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    23. In the NOPR, the Commission also discussed the following 
specific matters and asked for further comment: (1) Responsibility for 
use of three-part communication by transmission owners and generator 
owners that receive Operator Instructions; (2) whether COM-001-2 should 
be modified to address internal communication capability requirements, 
or to address testing requirements for distribution providers and 
generator operators; and (3) clarifications regarding the proposed 
terms Interpersonal Communication and Alternative Interpersonal 
Communication.
    24. Timely comments on the NOPR were filed by: NERC; the Edison 
Electric Institute and the Electric Power Supply Association (EEI/
EPSA); ISO/RTO Council; the National Rural Electric Cooperative 
Association (NRECA); International Transmission Company (ITC); Idaho 
Power Company (Idaho Power); and Tri-State G&T. In addition, on March 
6, 2015, NERC filed Supplemental Comments.

II. Discussion

    25. Pursuant to section 215(d)(2) of the FPA, we adopt our NOPR 
proposal and approve Reliability Standards COM-001-2 and COM-002-4, 
including the associated definitions, violation risk factors, violation 
severity levels, and implementation plans, as just, reasonable, not 
unduly discriminatory or preferential and in the public interest. We 
note that all of the commenters that addressed the overall value of the 
Reliability Standards supported, or did not oppose, approval of the two 
revised standards. We determine that COM-001-2 will enhance reliability 
by expanding the

[[Page 22389]]

applicability of currently effective COM-001-1.1 to include generator 
operators and distribution providers as applicable entities under the 
COM-001 standard, and by expanding the applicability of COM-002-4 to 
include distribution providers. We further find that COM-002-4 will 
enhance reliability by requiring all issuers and recipients of 
Operating Instructions to develop communications protocols that require 
use of three-part communications, by requiring training on those 
protocols, and by adopting a zero-tolerance enforcement approach to the 
use of three-part communications during an Emergency. Moreover, we 
conclude that requiring issuers of Operating Instructions to perform an 
annual assessment of their personnel's adherence to the communications 
protocols will help ensure a high level of compliance with three-part 
communications at all times.
    26. Pursuant to section 215(d)(5) of the FPA, the Commission 
directs that NERC develop one modification to COM-001-2 to address our 
concerns regarding applicability to certain internal communications, as 
discussed below.
    27. Below, we discuss the following matters: (A) Ensuring use of 
three-part communications by generator owners and transmission owners; 
(B) internal communication capability requirements; (C) testing 
requirements for distribution providers and generator operators; and 
(D) scope of the terms Interpersonal Communication and Alternative 
Interpersonal Communication.

A. Applicability to Generator Owners and Transmission Owners NOPR

    28. In the NOPR, the Commission raised the concern that generator 
owners and transmission owners are not ``applicable entities'' under 
either COM-001-2 or COM-002-4, although these entities could, under 
some circumstances, receive and act on Operating Instructions.\25\ The 
Commission sought comment on the obligations of an applicable entity 
when issuing an Operating Instruction to a transmission owner or 
generator owner, including information regarding which entity is 
responsible if the transmission owner or generator owner fails to 
perform three-part communication properly. In addition, the Commission 
asked NERC to explain its auditing practices when reviewing operating 
agreements between transmission operators and transmission owners, and 
between generator operators and generation owners, including NERC's 
approach to reviewing the protocols of any transmission owner or 
generator owner that acts on an Operating Instruction in order to 
ensure that three-part communication is used appropriately.
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    \25\ See id. PP 25-27.
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Comments
    29. All commenters that address this issue maintain that the two 
revised COM Reliability Standards appropriately identify the entities 
that issue and/or receive Operating Instructions, and that the two 
standards should not be expanded to include transmission owners or 
generator owners.\26\ NERC states that the two COM standards are 
appropriately tailored to apply to those functional entities that 
operate the Bulk-Power System as described in the NERC Functional Model 
and, therefore, apply to transmission operators and generator operators 
rather than transmission owners and generator owners. However, NERC 
acknowledges that ``there are instances in which Transmission Owners or 
Generator Owners may receive and act on Operating Instructions within 
areas operated by RTOs or ISOs.'' \27\ NERC asserts that, in these 
instances, the generator owner or transmission owner is ``acting on 
behalf of a registered Transmission Operator or Generator Operator 
under delegation as a member of the RTO or ISO.'' \28\ NERC asserts 
that, if performance of a reliability requirement is not achieved for a 
delegated task, ``the relevant Transmission Operator or Generator 
Operator responsible for compliance with the Reliability Standards is 
and has been held accountable.'' \29\
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    \26\ See NERC Comments at 2, 8; EEI/EPSA Comments at 3-4; ISO/
RTO Council Comments at 4; ITC Comments at 4-5; Tri-State G&T 
Comments at 1.
    \27\ NERC Comments at 8.
    \28\ Id.
    \29\ Id.
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    30. NERC provides several examples of the various approaches to 
assigning compliance responsibility, including a Joint Registration 
Organization or Coordinated Functional Registration (as used in ERCOT), 
and assignment of compliance responsibility through operating 
agreements and manuals (as used in PJM). In both circumstances, NERC 
and Regional Entity auditors review the relevant documents assigning 
compliance responsibility ``to determine whether there are gaps in 
performance under the Reliability Standards as a result of the 
delegation.'' \30\ In addition, NERC states that ``the registered 
entity for a particular function retains responsibility for providing 
supporting documentation regarding how a task is delegated,'' and ``for 
providing proof of compliance under the Reliability Standards.'' \31\
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    \30\ Id. at 10.
    \31\ Id. at 11.
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    31. EEI/EPSA maintains that generator owners do not receive and act 
on Operating Instructions, and therefore should not be included as 
applicable entities under the proposed standards. EEI/EPSA further 
maintains that transmission owners do not typically receive and act on 
Operating Instructions, except in regions where the transmission owners 
have arrangements to do so under specific operating contracts, and, in 
those cases, act ``sol[ely] at the direction of a responsible regional 
TOP, having broad area responsibilities.'' \32\
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    \32\ EEI/EPSA Comments at 3.
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    32. Like NERC, ISO/RTO Council acknowledges that transmission 
owners and generator owners may act on Operating Instructions from an 
ISO/RTO, at least within some ISO/RTO regions, but states that in those 
cases the ISOs have market rules and operating procedures in place for 
communicating Operating Instructions to utilities and other market 
participants within their footprint. ISO/RTO Council also asserts that 
ISOs and RTOs do not control the registration of transmission owners 
and generator owners within their footprint, but that the entity and 
the relevant Regional Entity ``make the final determination on their 
registration.'' \33\ Finally, ISO/RTO Council suggests that applying 
the requirements of the proposed COM standards to generator owners and 
transmission owners ``seems to address an administrative concern as 
opposed to a reliability concern,'' given that the ``core reliability 
issue at hand is determining whether the RC, BA or TOP command was 
followed by the relevant recipient,'' and given that ISOs and RTOs have 
market rules or tariff provisions in place that require strict 
adherence by utilities and market participants.\34\ ISO/RTO Council 
also asserts that, if an ISO or RTO issues a command to an entity that 
is not registered as a transmission operator or generator operator, and 
there is a three-part communication failure resulting in an enforcement 
action, then the NERC Rules of Procedure should be used to hold that 
entity responsible.\35\
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    \33\ ISO/RTO Council Comments at 3.
    \34\ Id.
    \35\ Id. at 4 (asserting that the NERC Rules of Procedure, 
Appendix 4C, Section 5.11 allows for an ISO or RTO to include in an 
enforcement proceeding an entity that causes or contributes to an 
alleged violation of a Reliability Standard).
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    33. ITC asserts that Operating Instructions, as defined by NERC,

[[Page 22390]]

cannot apply to a generator owner or transmission owner. ITC raises a 
related question, however, as to whether a transmission operator can 
issue an Operating Instruction to another transmission operator under 
the proposed Reliability Standards.\36\ ITC seeks confirmation from the 
Commission that a transmission operator cannot issue such an 
instruction or directive to another transmission operator, or if no 
such confirmation is given, ITC asks that the Commission ``explain the 
basis and process under which a Transmission Operator could issue such 
an Operating Instruction.'' \37\
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    \36\ ITC Comments at 5.
    \37\ Id. at 6.
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    34. Idaho Power asserts that COM-002-4 does not apply to generator 
owners or transmission owners, without further discussion of whether 
such entities could ever receive and act on Operating Instructions as 
defined by NERC. Tri-State G&T agrees that generator owners and 
transmission owners should not be added as applicable entities, as they 
rarely, if ever receive an Operating Instruction.
Commission Determination
    35. While several commenters have acknowledged that transmission 
owners and generator owners can receive and act on Operating 
Instructions in certain regions, we are persuaded that the proposed 
Reliability Standards need not be expanded to include those entities at 
this time. In doing so, we are persuaded by the explanation of NERC 
that ``[w]hile the Transmission Operator or Generator Operator may 
delegate tasks under the proposed Reliability Standards to other member 
entities within [an RTO or ISO], the Transmission Operator and 
Generator Operator retain responsibility for compliance with the 
Requirements in the proposed Reliability Standards.'' \38\ Moreover, we 
rely on NERC's explanation that NERC and Regional Entity auditors 
examine contractual arrangements ``to ascertain how tasks are delegated 
and to determine whether there are gaps in performance . . . as a 
result of the delegation. Responsibility will always rest with the 
entity registered with NERC as the Transmission Operator.'' \39\ Thus, 
in the PJM example, if a transmission owner with delegated operating 
responsibilities fails to use three-part communication as required 
under COM-002-4, the registered entity that has delegated the operating 
responsibilities will remain responsible for the violation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \38\ See also ISO/RTO Council Comments at 3-4; EEI/EPSA Comments 
at 3-4 (Commission approved Operating Agreements ``contractually 
bind TOs to act in conformance with TOP obligations'').
    \39\ NERC Comments at 10-11.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    36. ITC requests clarification whether or not a transmission 
operator can issue an Operating Instruction to another transmission 
operator, pursuant to COM-001-2 and COM-002-4. We find that the issue 
is beyond the scope of this rulemaking. The two standards at issue in 
this proceeding relate to requirements for communications capability 
and communications protocols, and do not address the relative 
authorities as between functional entities to require another entity to 
modify its operations in real-time, which is more properly addressed in 
the TOP and IRO Reliability Standards, including currently effective 
Reliability Standard TOP-1-1a.\40\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \40\ Requirement R1 of TOP-1-1a states that ``Each Transmission 
Operator shall have the responsibility and clear decision-making 
authority to take whatever actions are needed to ensure the 
reliability of its area and shall exercise specific authority to 
alleviate operating emergencies.'' The obligation of a functional 
entity to respond to an Operating Instruction is also expected to be 
more explicitly addressed in other TOP and IRO standards under 
development or awaiting Commission approval, including proposed 
Reliability Standard IRO-001-4, which requires transmission 
operators, balancing authorities, generator operators, and 
distribution providers to comply with their Reliability 
Coordinator's Operating Instructions except under certain described 
circumstances.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. Internal Communication Capability

NOPR
    37. In the NOPR, the Commission raised the concern that Reliability 
Standard COM-001-2 does not appear to carry forward an explicit 
requirement to maintain adequate internal communications capabilities, 
unlike the existing COM-001 standard, which states that each 
reliability coordinator, transmission operator, and balancing authority 
``shall provide adequate and reliable telecommunication facilities for 
the exchange of Interconnection and operating information . . . 
internally.'' \41\ The Commission stated that maintaining adequate 
internal communications could be critical to reliability, pointing to 
specific recommendations in the 2003 Blackout Report. The Commission 
proposed to direct NERC to develop modifications to COM-001-2, or to 
develop a separate standard, ``that ensures that entities maintain 
adequate internal communications capability, at least to the extent 
that such communications could involve the issuance or receipt of 
Operating Instructions or other communications that could have an 
impact on reliability.'' \42\ Alternatively, the Commission suggested 
that a requirement for internal communication capability could be 
considered to be implicit in the proposed requirements for 
communications capability between functional entities, even if those 
functional entities reside within the same utility, and sought comment 
on this suggested interpretation as well as the proposed directive.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \41\ NOPR, 148 FERC ] 61,210 at P 28 (quoting COM-001-1.1, 
Requirement R1).
    \42\ Id. P 30.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments
    38. NERC and most other commenters assert that Reliability Standard 
COM-002-4 can and should be read to apply to internal communications 
between functional entities within the same organization, as the 
Commission suggested in the NOPR.\43\ NERC and NRECA also assert that 
acceptance of this interpretation should eliminate the need for further 
modification to COM-002-4.\44\ ITC comments that COM-001-2 should apply 
to internal communications between different functional entities within 
the same organization but only ``when those communications are 
performed by means other than in direct, face-to-face situations.'' 
\45\ ITC continues, stating that ``[f]or entities performing multiple 
functions that are located in close proximity such that direct, face-
to-face communication is available, ITC does not see a reliability need 
for a requirement for Alternative Interpersonal Communication, and 
believes the Standards should be interpreted as not requiring AIC in 
these situations.'' \46\ ITC also advocates that, if the Commission 
does not find that COM-001-2 as submitted includes these kinds of 
internal communications, the standard ought to be modified to do so.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \43\ NERC Comments at 13; see also, e.g., NRECA Comments at 1, 
Idaho Power Comments at 4, and Tri-State Comments at 1.
    \44\ NERC Comments at 13; NRECA Comments at 1-2.
    \45\ ITC Comments at 7.
    \46\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    39. EEI/EPSA acknowledges that the approach taken in COM-001-2 is 
different than the currently-effective COM standard with respect to 
internal communications, but maintains that this change is consistent 
with results-based standards. EEI/EPSA maintains that ``a result-based 
standard should not need to specifically cite facility requirements or 
the specific internal communication obligations,'' and maintains that 
COM-001-2 properly specifies

[[Page 22391]]

communications capability ``at the Functional Entity level.'' \47\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \47\ Id. at 4-5.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Commission Determination
    40. We agree with NERC and other commenters that Reliability 
Standard COM-001-2 applies to communications between functional 
entities within a single organization. For example, COM-001-2, 
Requirement R3, provides that ``each Transmission Operator shall have 
Interpersonal Communication capability'' with the reliability 
coordinator, and each balancing authority, distribution provider, and 
generator operator ``within its Transmission Operator Area.'' We agree 
with NERC, ITC and other commenters that a reasonable understanding of 
Requirement R3 is that the transmission operator must have 
Interpersonal Communication capability with a balancing authority, 
distribution provider and/or generator operator within the same 
organization. Moreover, we agree with ITC that the COM-001-2 
requirements concerning Alternative Interpersonal Communication only 
apply when those communications are performed by means other than 
direct, face-to-face situations.
    41. However, the application of COM-001-2 to different functional 
entities within the same organization, as discussed above, does not 
fully address our concern set forth in the NOPR regarding internal 
communications.\48\ In particular, the NOPR explained that Requirement 
R1.1 of currently-effective COM-001-1.1 provides that each reliability 
coordinator, transmission operator, and balancing authority ``shall 
provide adequate and reliable telecommunication facilities for the 
exchange of Interconnection and operating information . . . 
internally.'' This currently-effective Requirement applies more broadly 
to internal communications, including internal communications within 
the same functional entity. Thus, unlike the currently-effective 
Reliability Standard, COM-001-2 does not address the adequacy of 
internal telecommunications (or other internal communication systems) 
that may have an adverse effect on reliability, even within a single 
functional entity, including: (1) Communications between geographically 
separate control centers within the same functional entity; and (2) 
communications between a control center and field personnel. These 
scenarios present a gap in reliability of the Bulk-Power System that 
NERC should address. Accordingly, pursuant to section 215(d)(5) of the 
FPA, we direct NERC to develop modifications to COM-001-2, or to 
develop a new standard, to address our concerns regarding ensuring the 
adequacy of internal communications capability whenever internal 
communications could directly affect the reliable operation of the 
Bulk-Power System.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \48\ See NOPR, 148 FERC ] 61,210 at PP 28-31.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

C. Testing Requirements for Distribution Providers and Generator 
Operators

NOPR
    42. In the NOPR, the Commission expressed concern that Reliability 
Standard COM-001-2 did not include a requirement that distribution 
providers and generator operators test or actively monitor their 
telecommunications systems, but were merely required to consult with 
each affected entity to determine a mutually agreeable action for 
restoration whenever a failure is detected.\49\ The Commission asked 
for comment on ``why generator operators and distribution providers 
should not have some form of requirement to test or actively monitor 
vital primary and emergency telecommunication facilities.'' \50\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \49\ NOPR, 148 FERC ] 61,210 at P 31 (citing to COM-001-2, 
Requirement R11).
    \50\ Id, (citing System Restoration Reliability Standards, Order 
No. 749, 134 FERC ] 61,215, at P 28 (2011)).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments
    43. NERC and the other commenters on this issue maintain that there 
is no need for a testing requirement for generator operators and 
distribution providers comparable to that required for reliability 
coordinators, balancing authorities and transmission operators, because 
generator operators and distribution providers are required to maintain 
only primary Interpersonal Communication capability, which is tested 
through routine use.\51\ NERC further explains that its approach is 
consistent with the Commission's statement in Order No. 693 that ``[w]e 
expect the telecommunication requirements for all applicable entities 
will vary according to their roles and that these requirements will be 
developed under the Reliability Standards development process.'' \52\ 
NERC also explains that the standard drafting team found that the 
obligation to detect and address failures in a primary communication 
system, as set out in Requirement R11 of COM-001-2, is sufficient, 
given ``the limited impact a failure might have on Distribution 
Providers and Generator Operators overall.'' \53\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \51\ See, e.g., NERC Comments at 14 (``routine use is sufficient 
to demonstrate functionality of this . . . primary capability''); 
EEI/EPSA Comments at 5-6 (``a system in regular use would gain 
little through routine testing''); and ISO/RTO Council Comments at 
6-7 (``capability will be `tested' through regular use'').
    \52\ NERC Comments at 14-15 (quoting Order No. 693, FERC Stats. 
& Regs. ] 31,242 at P 487).
    \53\ NERC Comments at 14.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Commission Determination
    44. We are persuaded by the comments of NERC and others that 
additional testing requirements for distribution providers and 
generator operators are not necessary at this time. NERC and other 
commenters assert that the primary Interpersonal Communication systems 
used by a distribution provider or generator operator will effectively 
be tested through routine use, and that any potential failures in a 
given generator operator or distribution provider's external 
communication system will not have a substantial impact on the Bulk-
Power System. In light of this explanation, as well as our recognition 
in Order No. 693 that telecommunication requirements for applicable 
entities will vary according to their roles, we decline to require any 
additional testing requirements for distribution providers and 
generator operators at this time.

D. Definition of Interpersonal Communication and Alternative 
Interpersonal Communication

NOPR
    45. In the NOPR, the Commission sought clarification on the 
intended scope of the newly defined terms Interpersonal Communication 
and Alternative Interpersonal Communication.\54\ The Commission noted 
that NERC had explained the introduction of these terms as a means of 
eliminating the ambiguity in the terms ``adequate and reliable'' and 
``redundant and diversely routed'' as currently used in Requirements R1 
and R1.4 of COM-001-1.1.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \54\ NOPR, 148 FERC ] 61,210 at P 32. As previously noted, NERC 
is proposing to define the terms, respectively, as follows:
    Interpersonal Communication--Any medium that allows two or more 
individuals to interact, consult, or exchange information.
    Alternative Interpersonal Communication--Any Interpersonal 
Communication that is able to serve as a substitute for, and does 
not utilize the same infrastructure (medium) as, Interpersonal 
Communication used for day-to-day operation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    46. The Commission raised two concerns about the new terms as used 
in proposed Reliability Standard COM-001-2. First, the Commission noted 
that the definitions do not state a minimum expectation of 
communication performance, such as speed and

[[Page 22392]]

quality.\55\ Second, the Commission asked for clarification as to 
whether Interpersonal Communication includes mediums used directly to 
exchange or transfer data, which communications appear to be covered 
under the currently-approved version of COM-001.\56\ The Commission, 
thus, asked for further explanation ``regarding acceptable (and 
unacceptable) performance of communication for both Interpersonal and 
Alternative Interpersonal Communications.'' \57\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \55\ NOPR, 148 FERC ] 61,210 at P 33.
    \56\ Id. As the Commission noted, COM-001-1.1, Requirement R1 
addresses ``telecommunications facilities for the exchange of 
Interconnection and operating information.''
    \57\ Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comments
    47. With respect to minimum performance standards or specifications 
for the required communications mediums, none of the commenters believe 
such specifications are necessary or advisable. NERC maintains that 
additional specifications are not necessary because the standard as 
written requires applicable entities to have the working capability 
needed to maintain reliability.\58\ EEI/EPSA agrees that performance 
specifications are not necessary, and questions whether it is even 
possible to set such standards given the diversity of systems used.\59\ 
ISO/RTO Council asserts that it would be inadvisable to include 
technical specifications on the communication mediums required, as it 
could result in the use of the least expensive medium that could 
achieve compliance.\60\ Idaho Power suggests that the kinds of 
measurable characteristics that might be appropriate for use to 
establish minimum performance levels for data exchanges are not 
available here, because the proposed COM standards do not include data 
exchange. Tri-State G&T states that the most common expected mediums 
for communication under the standard will likely be email and 
telephone, and that there is no need to include minimum expectations of 
speed or performance because ``all entities are focused on reliability 
and would always use the fastest and most reliable means of 
communication.'' \61\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \58\ NERC Comments at 4, 15-16.
    \59\ EEI/EPSA Comments at 6-7.
    \60\ ISO/RTO Council at 5. ISO/RTO Council also notes that its 
members already have requirements in place with their stakeholders 
on necessary technical requirements for voice and data exchange.
    \61\ Tri-State G&T Comments at 2.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    48. With respect to the transfer of data as opposed to 
communications between persons, all of the commenters to directly 
address the issue acknowledge that proposed Reliability Standard COM-
001-2 is not intended to, and does not, cover data exchanges or 
transfers. NERC (through its initial and supplemental comments) and 
ISO/RTO Council maintain that COM-001-2 need not include requirements 
regarding data transfer capability because such capability is covered 
under other existing or proposed standards.
    49. With respect to existing standards, NERC states that the 
standard drafting team determined that IRO-010-1a and IRO-014-1 
``provided the necessary mandatory Requirements to ensure proper data 
exchange is occurring.'' \62\ ISO/RTO Council provides several 
additional examples of existing Reliability Standards that address data 
exchange and transfer capability, including BAL-004-2b, R14; IRO-002-2, 
R1; and TOP-006-2, R1.\63\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \62\ NERC Comments at 16. See also ISO/RTO Council Comments at 
5-6 (noting that the standard drafting team explained that data 
communication is covered under Requirement R3 of IRO-010-1).
    \63\ ISO/RTO Council Comments at 6, n.10.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    50. With respect to standards under development, NERC asserts that 
four proposed IRO and TOP standards, now approved by the Board, 
``include specific coverage related to data exchange,'' and 
``collectively require data exchange capability'' for reliability 
coordinators, transmission operators, balancing authorities, generator 
operators, and distribution providers.\64\ NERC describes the specific 
requirements in proposed Reliability Standards TOP-001-3, IRO-010-2, 
TOP-003-3, and IRO-002-4 that will address data exchange capabilities 
and/or data exchange specifications for applicable functional entities.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \64\ NERC Supp. Comments at 3. NERC identified these same four 
standards in its Initial Comments, but provides a more detailed 
discussion of the proposed standards and their status in its 
Supplemental Comments.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    51. EEI/EPSA and Idaho Power also maintain that the term 
Interpersonal Communication does not cover data exchange, with EEI/EPSA 
asserting that the phrase requires a system ``that enables effective 
communications between two or more individuals.'' \65\ Moreover, EEI/
EPSA understands the term Alternative Interpersonal Communication to 
require certain entities to have backup communications that do not 
utilize the same infrastructure.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \65\ EEI/EPSA at 7. Similarly, Idaho Power states that the term 
was intended to include voice and electronic messaging between 
people, and exclude data exchanges, such as SCADA and metering data. 
Idaho Power Comments at 4-5.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    52. ITC asserts that the definitions of Interpersonal Communication 
and Alternative Interpersonal Communication ``could ostensibly be 
interpreted to extend the Standard beyond verbal and written 
communications and Operating Instructions to include the transmission 
of electronic data between control systems that are monitored/used by 
system operators.'' \66\ ITC warns that ``[i]f the Commission does 
indeed intend the scope of the Standards to extend to such electronic 
data transmission, the requirement for Alternative Interpersonal 
Communication may not be achievable'' because ``[i]t may simply not be 
possible to maintain a second pathway for the transmission of such 
data, whether by dint of data format, system compatibility, or the 
feasibility of installing a redundant system.'' \67\ ITC accordingly 
recommends that if an alternative pathway for data transmission is 
deemed necessary, then the Commission should retain the language from 
COM-001-1 which requires ``redundant and diversely routed systems.'' 
\68\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \66\ ITC Comments at 8.
    \67\ Id.
    \68\ Id. at 9.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Commission Determination
    53. First, we are satisfied that technical specifications regarding 
minimum levels of performance for the mediums used to satisfy the 
requirements of COM-001-2 are not necessary at this time. In doing so, 
we note NERC's explanation that the requirements in COM-001-2 are 
``absolute'' and that entities must ``have the capability in place to 
`establish Interpersonal Communication capabilities necessary to 
maintain reliability.' '' \69\ Moreover, we are persuaded by the 
commenters that setting performance criteria for the email and 
telephonic communications at issue here is both impractical and 
unnecessary.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \69\ NERC Comments at 15-16.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    54. Second, the NOPR raised concerns pertaining to whether COM-001-
2 addresses ``facilities that directly exchange or transfer data.'' 
\70\ In response, NERC states that data exchange capability is being 
addressed in proposed IRO and TOP standards.\71\ Accordingly, we do not 
make any determinations regarding data exchange capability in the 
immediate rulemaking. Rather, based on NERC's explanation, we will 
address any issues regarding

[[Page 22393]]

data exchange capability in the pending rulemaking pertaining to NERC's 
proposed TOP and IRO Reliability Standards.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \70\ See NOPR, 148 FERC ] 61,210 at P 33.
    \71\ See NERC Supplemental Filing at 2-3. On March 18, 2015, 
NERC submitted a petition for approval of proposed Transmission 
Operations and Interconnection Reliability Operations and 
Coordination Reliability Standards, Docket No. RM15-15-000, pending 
before the Commission.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

III. Information Collection Statement
    55. The collection of information contained in this Final Rule is 
subject to review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under 
section 3507(d) of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.\72\ OMB's 
regulations require approval of certain information collection 
requirements imposed by agency rules.\73\ Upon approval of a 
collection(s) of information, OMB will assign an OMB control number and 
an expiration date. Respondents subject to the filing requirements of a 
rule will not be penalized for failing to respond to these collections 
of information unless the collections of information display a valid 
OMB control number.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \72\ 44 U.S.C. 3507(d) (2012).
    \73\ 5 CFR 1320.11 (2013).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    56. The Commission solicited comments on the need for this 
information, whether the information will have practical utility, the 
accuracy of the burden estimates, ways to enhance the quality, utility, 
and clarity of the information to be collected or retained, and any 
suggested methods for minimizing respondents' burden, including the use 
of automated information techniques. Specifically, the Commission asked 
that any revised burden or cost estimates submitted by commenters be 
supported by sufficient detail to understand how the estimates were 
generated.
    57. The Final Rule approves Reliability Standards COM-001-2 and 
COM-002-4, as well as NERC's proposed retirement of currently-effective 
Reliability Standards COM-001-1.1 and COM-002-2. Reliability Standard 
COM-001-2 establishes Interpersonal Communication capability necessary 
to maintain reliability, while Reliability Standard COM-002-4 improves 
communications related to Operating Instructions, requiring issuers of 
Operating Instructions to adopt predefined communications protocols and 
requiring both issuers and recipients of Operating Instructions to use 
three-part communications.
    Public Reporting Burden: Reliability Standards COM-001-2 and COM-
002-4 do not require responsible entities to file information with the 
Commission. However, the Reliability Standards require applicable 
entities to develop and maintain certain information, subject to audit. 
In particular, COM-001-2 requires that transmission operators, 
balancing authorities, reliability coordinators, distribution 
providers, and generator operators must maintain documentation of 
Interpersonal Communication capability and designation of Alternate 
Interpersonal Communication, as well as evidence of testing of the 
Alternate Interpersonal Communication facilities. COM-002-4 requires 
balancing authorities, distribution providers, reliability 
coordinators, transmission operators, and generator operators to 
develop and maintain documented communication protocols, and to be able 
to provide evidence of training on the protocols and of their annual 
assessment of the protocols. Additionally, all applicable entities 
(balancing authorities, reliability coordinators, transmission 
operators, generator operators, and distribution providers) must be 
able to provide evidence of three-part communication when issuing or 
receiving an Operating Instruction during an Emergency.
    Many of the record retention or information collection requirements 
in COM-001-2 and COM-002-4 are translated in some form from the 
currently-effective Reliability Standards (COM-001-1 and COM-002-2). 
For these requirements, the Commission estimates a zero net change in 
burden. Accordingly, our estimate below shows the increase in record-
retention or information collection burden, based on the new 
requirements to:

    (1) Develop communications protocols (a one-time burden under 
COM-002-4, Requirement R1),
    (2) maintain evidence of required training, assessments, and use 
of three-part communications, as applicable (an on-going burden 
under COM-002-4 Requirements R2, R3, R4, R5 and R6); and
    (3) maintain evidence to demonstrate Interpersonal Communication 
capability (a new, on-going burden for distribution providers and 
generator operators under COM-001-2 Requirements R7 and R8).

The Commission's estimate of the number of respondents is based on the 
NERC compliance registry as of August 15, 2014. According to the NERC 
compliance registry, NERC has registered 179 transmission operators, 
107 balancing authorities, 15 reliability coordinators, 475 
distribution providers, and 853 generator operators within the United 
States. However, under NERC's compliance registration program, entities 
may be registered for multiple functions, so these numbers incorporate 
some double counting, which has been accounted for in the table below. 
The Commission estimates the annual reporting burden and cost as 
follows:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \74\ The estimated hourly costs (salary plus benefits) are based 
on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) information, as of March 19, 
2015, for an electrical engineer ($65.34/hour for review and 
documentation) and for an Information and Record Clerk ($33.42/hour 
for record retention). These figures have been updated since 
issuance of the NOPR, and are available at: http://bls.gov/oes/current/naics3_221000.htm#17-0000. The first row of the table (one-
time burden) is done by an engineer, and the latter three rows 
(ongoing burden) are done by a file clerk.
    \75\ This dollar burden figure in row 3 of this chart was 
incorrectly stated in the NOPR, which led to an incorrect estimate 
of the total dollar burden for the industry in row 5. Both estimates 
as stated in the NOPR were higher than the corrected and updated 
estimate reflected in this Final Rule.
    \76\ No change is expected in the record-keeping burden under 
COM-001-2 for reliability coordinators, balancing authorities, and 
transmission operators as compared to the currently-effective COM-
001 standard.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                   Annual number
     Information collection       Number and type of respondents   of responses    Total number    Avg. burden & cost per   Total annual burden hours &
           requirement                                            per respondent   of responses        response \74\           total annual cost \75\
                                  (1)...........................             (2)   (1)*(2) = (3)  (4)....................  (3)*(4) = (5)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(One-time) Development of         212...........................               1             212  8 hrs. & $522.72.......  1,696 hours & $110,816.64
 Communication Protocols [COM-    (BA, RC & TOP)................
 002-4 R1].
(On-going) Maintain evidence of   1,217.........................               1           1,217  4 hrs. & $133.68.......  4,868 hours & $162,688.56
 Interpersonal Communication      (DP & GOP)....................
 capability [COM-001-2 R7 and
 R8].\76\
(On-going) Maintain evidence of   212...........................               1             212  8 hrs. & $267.36.......  1,696 hours & $56,680.32
 training and assessments [COM-   (BA, RC & TOP)................
 002-4 R2, R4, R5 and R6].
(On-going) Maintain evidence of   1,217.........................               1           1,217  8 hrs. & $267.36.......  9,736 hours & $ 325,377.12
 training [COM-002-4 R3, and R6]. (DP & GOP)....................

[[Page 22394]]

 
    Total.......................  ..............................  ..............           2,858  .......................  17,996 hours & $655,562.64
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Title: Mandatory Reliability Standards for the Bulk-Power System: 
COM Reliability Standards.
    Action: Proposed FERC-725V.
    OMB Control No: 1902-0277.
    Respondents: Businesses or other for-profit institutions; not-for-
profit institutions.
    Frequency of Responses: One-time and ongoing.
    Necessity of the Information: The approval of Reliability Standards 
COM-001-2 and COM-002-4 implements the Congressional mandate of the 
Energy Policy Act of 2005 to develop mandatory and enforceable 
Reliability Standards to better ensure the reliability of the nation's 
Bulk-Power System. Specifically, the purpose of the Reliability 
Standards is to establish Interpersonal Communication capability 
necessary to maintain reliability, and to improve communications for 
the issuance of Operating Instructions with predefined communications 
protocols. The proposed Reliability Standards require entities to 
maintain records subject to review by the Commission and NERC to ensure 
compliance with the Reliability Standards.
    Internal Review: The Commission has reviewed the requirements 
pertaining to the Reliability Standards for the Bulk-Power System and 
determined that the requirements are necessary to meet the statutory 
provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. These requirements conform 
to the Commission's plan for efficient information collection, 
communication and management within the energy industry. The Commission 
has assured itself, by means of internal review, that there is 
specific, objective support for the burden estimates associated with 
the information requirements.
    58. Interested persons may obtain information on the reporting 
requirements by contacting the following: Federal Energy Regulatory 
Commission, 888 First Street NE., Washington, DC 20426 [Attention: 
Ellen Brown, Office of the Executive Director, email: 
[email protected], phone: (202) 502-8663, fax: (202) 273-0873].
    59. Comments concerning the information collections approved in 
this Final Rule and the associated burden estimates should be sent to 
the Commission in these dockets and may also be sent to the Office of 
Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs 
[Attention: Desk Officer for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission]. 
For security reasons, comments should be sent by email to OMB at the 
following email address: [email protected]. Please reference 
FERC-725V and the docket numbers of this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 
(Docket No. RM14-13-000) in your submission.

IV. Regulatory Flexibility Act Certification

    60. The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) \77\ generally 
requires a description and analysis of proposed rules that will have 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
Reliability Standard COM-001-2 is expected to impose burdens for the 
first time on 1,217 entities (i.e., distribution providers and 
generator operators).\78\ Reliability Standard COM-002-4 may apply to 
as many as 1,279 entities.\79\ Comparison of the applicable entities 
with FERC's small business data indicates that approximately 934 of the 
1,279 entities are small entities.\80\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \77\ 5 U.S.C. 601-612.
    \78\ The number of small distribution providers required to 
comply with the COM standards may decrease significantly. In March 
2015, the Commission approved revisions to the NERC Rules of 
Procedure to implement NERC's ``risk based registration'' program, 
which raised the registry threshold for distribution providers from 
a 25 MW to 75 MW peak load. North American Electric Reliability 
Corp., 150 FERC ] 61,213 (2015).
    \79\ The applicable entities are balancing authorities, 
reliability coordinators, transmission operators, generator 
operators, and distribution providers. After accounting for entities 
registered for more than one function, the total count is 1,279 
entities.
    \80\ The Small Business Administration sets the threshold for 
what constitutes a small business. Public utilities may fall under 
one of several different categories, each with a size threshold 
based on the company's number of employees, including affiliates, 
the parent company, and subsidiaries. The possible categories for 
the applicable entities have a size threshold ranging from 250 
employees to 1,000 employees. We are using the 1000 employee 
threshold for this analysis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    61. Reliability Standard COM-002-4 will serve to enhance 
reliability by, among other things, requiring adoption of predefined 
communication protocols, annual assessment of those protocols and 
operating personnel's adherence thereto, training on the protocols, and 
use of three-part communications. The Commission estimates that each 
small balancing authority, reliability coordinator, and transmission 
operator subject to Reliability Standard COM-002-4 will incur one-time 
compliance costs of about $523 (i.e. development of communication 
protocols), plus on-going annual costs of about $790 (i.e. performing 
training and maintaining evidence of training and assessments).\81\ The 
Commission estimates that each of the small distribution provider and 
generator operator entities potentially subject to Reliability 
Standards COM-001-2 and COM-002-4 will incur on-going annual costs of 
about $887 (i.e. performing training and maintaining evidence of 
interpersonal communication capability and of training).\82\ The 
Commission does not consider the estimated costs per small entity to 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. Accordingly, the Commission certifies that this Final Rule 
will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities.
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    \81\ The ongoing annual costs for both paperwork and training 
are based on (8 hours * $33.42) + (8 * $65.34) = $790.16 or 
approximately $790.00.
    \82\ The ongoing annual cost is based on (12 * $33.42) + (8 * 
$60.70) = $886.64 or approximately $887.00.
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V. Environmental Analysis

    62. The Commission is required to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement for any action that may 
have a significant adverse effect on the human environment.\83\ The 
Commission has categorically excluded certain actions from this 
requirement as not having a significant effect on the human 
environment. Included in the exclusion are rules that are clarifying, 
corrective, or procedural or that do not substantially change the 
effect of the regulations being amended.\84\ The actions approved 
herein fall within this

[[Page 22395]]

categorical exclusion in the Commission's regulations.
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    \83\ Regulations Implementing the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969, Order No. 486, FERC Stats. & Regs. ] 30,783 (1987).
    \84\ 18 CFR 380.4(a)(2)(ii).
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VI. Document Availability

    63. In addition to publishing the full text of this document in the 
Federal Register, the Commission provides all interested persons an 
opportunity to view and/or print the contents of this document via the 
Internet through the Commission's Home Page (http://www.ferc.gov) and 
in the Commission's Public Reference Room during normal business hours 
(8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time) at 888 First Street NE., Room 2A, 
Washington, DC 20426.
    64. From the Commission's Home Page on the Internet, this 
information is available on eLibrary. The full text of this document is 
available on eLibrary in PDF and Microsoft Word format for viewing, 
printing, and/or downloading. To access this document in eLibrary, type 
the docket number excluding the last three digits of this document in 
the docket number field.
    65. User assistance is available for eLibrary and the Commission's 
Web site during normal business hours from the Commission's Online 
Support at 202-502-6652 (toll free at 1-866-208-3676) or email at 
[email protected], or the Public Reference Room at (202) 502-
8371, TTY (202) 502-8659. Email the Public Reference Room at 
[email protected].

VII. Effective Date and Congressional Notification

    66. This Final Rule is effective June 22, 2015.
    67. The Commission has determined, with the concurrence of the 
Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of 
OMB, that this rule is not a ``major rule'' as defined in section 351 
of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996.\85\ 
The Commission will submit the Final Rule to both houses of Congress 
and to the General Accountability Office.
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    \85\ See 5 U.S.C. 804(2).
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    68. In addition to publishing the full text of this document in the 
Federal Register, the Commission provides all interested persons an 
opportunity to view and/or print the contents of this document via the 
Internet through the Commission's Home Page (http://www.ferc.gov) and 
in the Commission's Public Reference Room during normal business hours 
(8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time) at 888 First Street NE., Room 2A, 
Washington, DC 20426.

    By direction of the Commission.
    Issued: April 16, 2015.
Nathaniel J. Davis, Sr.,
Deputy Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2015-09225 Filed 4-21-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 6717-01-P