Author Archives: Jeffrey A. Franklin, Esq.

About Jeffrey A. Franklin, Esq.

Jeffrey A. Franklin serves clients in ways that maximize their opportunity to achieve their goals. Jeff has more than 20 years of experience, primarily in the areas of electric, gas, telecommunication, alternative energy, transportation and water regulation. He also has extensive experience in technology, Internet and computer law and e-discovery issues.

Answers to Frequent Questions about CHP

Considering Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to save money, enhance reliability, and benefit the environment?  The EPA CHP Partnership and Prince Law Offices can help. 

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What is CHP?

Typically, nearly two-thirds of the energy used to generate electricity is wasted in the form of heat discharged to the atmosphere. Additional energy is wasted during the distribution of electricity to end users. CHP is on-site electricity generation that captures the heat that would otherwise be wasted to provide useful thermal energy—such as steam or hot water—that can be used for space heating, cooling, domestic hot water and industrial processes. In this way, and by avoiding distribution losses, CHP can achieve efficiencies of over 80 percent, compared to 50 percent for conventional technologies (i.e., grid-supplied electricity and an on-site boiler).

Learn more in Discover CHP.

What are the benefits of CHP?

CHP offers a number of benefits compared to conventional electricity and thermal energy production, including:

  • Efficiency Benefits. CHP requires less fuel to produce a given energy output and avoids transmission and distribution losses that occur when electricity travels over power lines.
  • Environmental Benefits. Because less fuel is burned to produce each unit of energy output and because transmission and distribution losses are avoided, CHP reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.
  • Economic Benefits. CHP can save facilities considerable money on their energy bills due to its high efficiency, and it can provide a hedge against electricity cost increases.
  • Reliability Benefits. Unreliable electricity service represents a quantifiable business, safety, and health risk for some companies and organizations. CHP is an on-site generation resource and can be designed to support continued operations in the event of a disaster or grid disruption by continuing to provide reliable electricity.

Learn more in CHP Benefits.

Where does CHP make sense?

CHP is ideally suited for energy users that have both electric and thermal energy demands.

CHP is used in many different types and sizes of facilities nationwide, including:

  • Commercial buildings—office buildings, hotels, health clubs, nursing homes
  • Residential—condominiums, co-ops, apartments, planned communities
  • Institutions—colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, military bases
  • Municipal—district energy systems, wastewater treatment facilities, K-12 schools
  • Manufacturers—chemical, refining, ethanol, pulp and paper, food processing, glass manufacturing

Learn more in Discover CHP.

Desire more specific assistance regarding CHP, renewable energy projects, energy law, or real estate law, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

 

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PaPUC Initiates Further Study of Supplier Consolidated Billing by Electric Generation Suppliers

puc_sealOn January 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) initiated further study of customer billing practices by competitive electric generations suppliers (EGSs) – directing an en banc hearing be conducted before the Commission to explore, among other things, the legality, merits and potential implementation of supplier consolidated billing (SCB).

The Commission voted 5-0 to deny a petition filed by NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), requesting approval of SCB, but also approved a joint motion by Chairman Gladys M. Brown and Commissioner Norman J. Kennard to further explore the the merits of possible alternatives to SCB.

Under SCB, customers would receive a single, consolidated bill from their chosen EGS that would include both their electric distribution company’s (EDC) distribution charges and their EGS’s generation and transmission charges.  Currently in Pennsylvania, EDCs handle all customer billing, with the EDC joint bill including any generation and transmission charges for customers with competitive EGSs.

The joint motion by Chairman Brown and Commissioner Kennard outlined the ongoing exploration of the issue by the Commission.

“We continue to be of the opinion previously expressed by the Commission as part of our retail electricity market investigation that SCB will facilitate the offering of innovative new products and services and will also help the supplier in establishing a brand identity with the customer,” Commissioner Kennard stated in the joint motion. “In order to continue the consideration of SCB and other programs that can promote a competitive market and benefit customers, we find that it is necessary to seek further information.”

The Commissioners’ joint motion directs the PUC’s Law Bureau and Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to organize an en banc hearing, to occur on or before June 14, 2018, to allow invited parties the opportunity to provide additional information on SCB or SCB alternatives.  The Commission plans to issue a Secretarial Letter with more details on the en banc hearing.

To learn how Prince Law Offices, P.C. can assist you or your business with energy law and PUC matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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After Three Years, PennEast Pipeline Approved by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Construction to Begin

FERCThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an Order under section 7(c) of the Natural Gas Act approving construction of the PennEast Pipeline.

PennEast Pipeline Logo

Anthony Cox, Chair of the PennEast Pipeline Company LLC Board of Managers said “They will reap the benefits of accessing one of the most affordable and abundant supplies of natural gas in all of North America. PennEast will lower gas and electricity costs, increase reliability, improve air quality, and make the region more competitive for jobs in the coming decades.”

The approximately 120-mile pipeline route begins in the Marcellus Shale production area near Dallas, Pennsylvania, and connects with the existing underground Transcontinental Pipeline near Pennington, New Jersey. The route includes 24 municipalities in Pennsylvania and six in New Jersey.

Access to additional natural gas supplies via PennEast Pipeline should reduce the cost of gas in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, even during non-peak periods. Natural gas prices in the market areas worsen during periods of peak demand, such as the sustained recent cold snap, where natural gas prices spiked 31 times higher in New Jersey than supplies in the Pennsylvania production areas. This is due to pipeline constraints and inadequate supply to meet demand.

Since 2005, natural gas use has more than doubled in New Jersey and increased five-fold in Pennsylvania for electric generation. As a result, carbon emissions are dropping to their lowest level in nearly three decades while air quality has improved across the region. A diverse fuel supply and the reliability of the electric grid are the primary reasons PJM Interconnection, the largest electric grid operator in the world, cited in an October 2016 report to FERC that the PennEast Pipeline is needed for grid reliability.

FERC issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) first under the Obama Administration in July 2016, and finalized its recommendations after nearly nine months of additional public input. The Final EIS in April 2017 affirmed that construction and operation of the PennEast Pipeline would have minimal environmental impact, which would be reduced to “less than significant levels” with PennEast’s and FERC’s mitigation measures.  The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Democrat Governor Tom Wolf issued its 401 Water Quality Certification in February, and in May, the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 3 added that the Final EIS included “improved safeguards for the protection of human health and the environment.”

Additionally, the PennEast Pipeline Company updated its estimated in-service date to 2019, with construction still beginning in 2018. The original project timeline allowed for many variables, though did not anticipate the many months without a voting quorum at FERC.

“In the coming days, we will work to finalize fair and positive compensation agreements with landowners,” added Cox. “In the weeks ahead, survey crews will collect remaining field data in support of our permit applications to ensure minimal environmental and community impact. We look forward to continuing our work with state, bi-state and regional permitting agencies and expect those permit reviews to be conducted on the merits of the application, without outside interference.”

If you or your business have questions regarding energy law or real estate law, including right of way and easement negotiations, condemnations or eminent domain, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices, P.C.

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BEC Attacks to Exceed $9B in 2018

Business email compromise is projected to skyrocket as attackers adopt sophisticated techniques to dupe their victims.

Business email compromise (BEC) attacks are projected to exceed $9 billion in 2018. The attacks continue to become more sophisticated and fleece more money from U.S. businesses.

How it works

There has been an increase of computer intrusions linked to BEC scams, involving fraudsters impersonating high level executives, sending phishing emails from seemingly legitimate sources, and requesting wire transfers to alternate, fraudulent accounts. In some cases these methods ultimately lead to successful intrusion and unfettered access to their victims’ credentials.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) puts BEC attacks in five categories: Bogus Invoice Schemes, CEO Fraud, Account Compromise, Attorney Impersonation, and Data

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Theft. More information is available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) IC3.

Growth Industry

The combination of simplicity and effectiveness have ensured that BEC will continue to be one of the most popular attacks according to a January 18, 2018 Trend Micro report “Delving into the World of Business Email Compromise (BEC).” Researchers analyzed BEC as a cybercriminal operation from January through September 2017, dissecting tools and strategies commonly used in these attacks to predict activity for this year.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) puts BEC attacks in five categories: Bogus Invoice Schemes, CEO Fraud, Account Compromise, Attorney Impersonation, and Data Theft. In this case, researchers split them in two: Credential-grabbing and Email-only. Attackers must be proficient in at least one of these methods for the scheme to work, researchers report.

Defending against the scam

Businesses are advised to stay vigilant and educate employees on how to prevent being victimized by BEC scams and other similar attacks. It’s important to know that cybercriminals do not care about your company’s size—the more victims, the better. Additionally, cybercriminals need not to be highly technical as they can find tools and services that cater to all levels of technical expertise in the cybercriminal underground. Here are some tips on how to avoid these scams:

• Employee awareness and education is the first step. Organizations should train employees how to spot phishing attacks.

• Email is often used to perform BEC attacks, relying on deception and social engineering to trick employees into downloading files, visiting websites or providing information. End users should know what to look out for when it comes to email—as even the most convincing BEC attacks typically have telltale signs that can be used to distinguish a legitimate email from a malicious one.

• Verify the legitimacy of fund transfer requests, especially those that involve large amounts. Just because the request seemingly comes from an executive, it does not mean that it is legitimate. If possible, confirm the request directly with the person who sent the request if there is something unusual or suspicious about the request.

• For vendors and suppliers, organizations should verify payment requests and invoices before transferring funds. If the vendor or supplier suddenly provides a different payment location, consider it a red flag and verify the change via a secondary sign-off by company personnel.

• Any request should be verified and challenged. If the request comes in via email, making a phone call or face-to-face discussion with the person making the request to ensure its validity will help mitigate BEC attacks. Use known good telephone numbers, not those in the email.

• Building a culture of security within the organization from top to bottom.

What to do

If you suspect that you have been a victim of a BEC email, report the incident to your company and financial institution immediately.  Also, consider filing a complaint with the IC3 no matter how much the amount.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Section 508 Gets an Update: New Web Accessibility Guidelines for Government Sites Take Effect January 18

Today, January 18, 2018 new website accessibility requirements (such as screen reader compatibility for hearing and sight impaired) for federal websites became effective. 

The U.S. Access Board in a published final rule updating accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act became effective today.

Updated Section 508 Standards for Federal ICT

Section 508 and 255 Refresh with reload iconThe Access Board’s final rule revises and refreshes its standards for information and communication technology in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Board’s Section 508 Standards, which were first issued in 2000, apply to ICT developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies. Examples include computers, telecommunications equipment, multifunction office machines such as copiers that also function as printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents.

Goals of the Refresh

The Board updated the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines jointly to ensure consistency in accessibility across the spectrum of information and communication technologies (ICT) covered. Other goals of this refresh include:

  • enhancing accessibility to ICT for people with disabilities;
  • making the requirements easier to understand and follow;
  • updating the requirements so that they stay abreast of the ever-changing nature of the technologies covered; and
  • harmonizing the requirements with other standards in the U.S. and abroad.

Major Changes

The final rule revises both the structure and substance of the ICT requirements to further accessibility, facilitate compliance, and make the document easier to use. Major changes include:

  • restructuring provisions by functionality instead of product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT;
  • incorporating the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 by reference and applying Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements to websites, as well as to non-web electronic documents and software;
  • specifying the types of non-public facing electronic content that must comply;
  • requiring that operating systems provide certain accessibility features;
  • clarifying that software and operating systems must interoperate with assistive technology (such as screen magnification software and refreshable braille displays);
  • addressing access for people with cognitive, language, and learning disabilities; and
  • harmonizing the requirements with international standards.

Incorporation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

W3C WCAG 2.0 logoThe final rule incorporates by reference a number of voluntary consensus standards, including WCAG 2.0. Issued by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative, WCAG 2.0 is a globally recognized, technology-neutral standard for web content. The final rule applies WCAG 2.0 not only to web-based content, but to all electronic content. The benefits of incorporating the WCAG 2.0 into the Section 508 Standards and the 255 Guidelines and applying it in this manner are significant. WCAG 2.0 addresses new technologies and recognizes that the characteristics of products, such as native browser behavior and plug-ins and applets, have converged over time. A substantial amount of WCAG 2.0 support material is available, and WCAG 2.0-compliant accessibility features are already built into many products. Further, use of WCAG 2.0 promotes international harmonization as it is referenced by, or the basis for, standards issued by the European Commission, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, and France.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Tech Support Fraudsters to Pay

A federal court ordered that the assets of the operators of an alleged tech support scam be used to reimburse consumers who lost money to the defendants’ scheme.

US District Court ED PAThe U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed with the FTC, the State of Connecticut, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that the money held by a court-ordered receiver was acquired by the defendants “through fraud and other improper means” and should be used for the benefit of consumer victims.

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The FTC alleged that the defendants used Internet ads and popups that claimed to be from major tech companies like Microsoft and Apple to trick consumers into calling the defendants and buying tech support services.

In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced settlements with Bruce Bartolotta, Click4Support, LLC, Spanning Source LLC, George Saab, Chetan Patel and Niraj Patel as well as Innovazion Inc., Innovazion Research Private Limited, Abhishek Gagneja, and Rishi Gagneja. Under the settlements, the defendants are banned from marketing technical support services and agreed to pay a total of more than $554,000 and to forfeit $1.3 million held by the receiver. The settlements were announced as part of the Operation Tech Trap initiative, an international crackdown of tech support scams announced by the FTC in May.

Consumers who believe they were victims of the tech support services operated by the defendants can file a consumer complaint with the FTC by visiting www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by calling (877) 382-4357.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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Did the FCC Just Kill the Internet?

ftc_logo_430Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issued the following statement in response to today’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the Restoring Internet Freedom Order regarding net neutrality:

“The FCC’s action today (December 14, 2017) restored the FTC’s ability to protect consumers and competition throughout the Internet ecosystem. The FTC is ready to resume its role as the cop on the broadband beat, where it has vigorously protected the privacy and security of consumer data and challenged broadband providers who failed to live up to their promises to consumers. In addition, the FCC’s new transparency rules provide additional tools to help ensure that consumers get what they expect from their broadband providers, who will be required to disclose their traffic management practices. The Memorandum of Understanding establishes a framework for FTC-FCC cooperation. Together we will move ahead to protect consumers and help ensure they enjoy the many benefits of online innovation.”

So did the FCC just kill the internet?  Probably not, but time will tell.

If you or your business have legal questions or concerns regarding communications law, computer law, privacy, or cybersecurity law matters, contact attorney Jeffrey A. Franklin at Prince Law Offices.

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