Thursday, March 30, 2017

State Briefs


Regulator Schedules His Own Hearing in APS Rate Case


Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns has scheduled his own public comment hearing April 3 in Flagstaff regarding a rate increase request filed by Arizona Public Service last year after the city wasn’t included on the hearing schedule.

Burns said he twice heard from Flagstaff city officials who requested a local public comment opportunity, and he twice requested the commission discuss the request at its staff meeting. Both times, he said, Chairman Tom Forese did not include any such discussion on the meeting agenda. Burns said he tried to schedule his own staff meeting to discuss a Flagstaff hearing, but Forese canceled it.

Forese declined to comment.

More: Arizona Daily Sun


Water Official Says Oroville Dam Spillway Will Be Rebuilt by Nov.

The acting director of the state’s Department of Water Resources said a plan to rebuild the Oroville Dam’s roughly 3,000-foot spillway will be unveiled either this week or early next, and he pledged to have either a permanent or temporary structure in place by Nov. 1.

While Bill Croyle acknowledged that the timetable is tight, a panel of experts hired by the state said the work could require two years. The experts also warned that without substantial repairs by the next rainy season in November, the situation would pose a “very significant risk.”

Last week, the department gave FERC a schedule for the independent review team investigating the spillway failure that began in February. The schedule calls for the team to provide a list of potential causes to be factored into the design of interim spillways in the first week of May.

More: San Francisco Chronicle; The Mercury News

Bill to Stop Aliso Canyon Injections Pulled from Senate Agenda


A bill to stop natural gas injections from resuming at Aliso Canyon was not heard as scheduled Tuesday after the chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee pulled it from the agenda.

Sen. Ben Hueso, who opposed SB 57, pulled it from the agenda at about 9:30 p.m. Monday night. Between 20 and 30 Aliso Canyon residents came to Sacramento on Tuesday morning to testify on the impact of the gas leaks, according to the office of Sen. Henry Stern, who co-authored the bill.

The bill, which had bipartisan support, would have required the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to complete an analysis to determine the cause of the Aliso Canyon leak before considering whether to lift the moratorium on natural gas injections.

More: The Signal

Governor Requests Federal Help for Oroville Dam Repairs

Gov. Jerry Brown requested a presidential major disaster declaration Sunday to help repair the Oroville Dam’s damaged main spillway, which began to collapse on Feb. 7.

Bill Croyle, acting director of the Department of Water Resources, said the costs of repairing or replacing the spillway are likely to be “much higher” than early estimates of between $100 million to $200 million, when other expenses, such as debris removal, are considered. So far, the crisis has cost $100 million through the end of February. Estimates for March weren’t immediately available, but Croyle said the daily average cost at the dam in February was $4.7 million.

On Friday, dam operators began releasing water down the damaged main spillway for the first time since flows were halted there Feb. 27.

More: Chico Enterprise-Record; Bay City News


Court Sides with Teens in Case Against Regulators

Siding with teenagers and reversing a lower court ruling, the Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that state oil and gas regulators must protect public health and the environment as a necessary condition before oil and gas drilling can be done.

The teenagers, who were supported by more than a dozen advocacy groups, proposed in 2013 that the state not issue any new permits for oil and gas drilling “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent third party organization confirms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively, with other actions, impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife and land resources, does not adversely impact human health and does not contribute to climate change.”

For more than a decade, Oil and Gas Conservation Commission officials interpreted their legal mandate as to balance oil and gas industry interests against public health, safety and welfare, and they denied the teens’ request in 2014, saying it was beyond their authority.

More: The Denver Post


Joint Committee Advances Millstone Legislation

A bill that would help Dominion Energy’s Millstone Nuclear Power Station compete in the state’s renewable energy procurement program passed a legislative committee last week and will be heard by the full House of Representatives and Senate.

Kevin Hennessy, Dominion’s director of federal, state and local affairs for New England, said giving Millstone access to the program would give the company and other bidders a strong incentive to offer the lowest possible prices.

A coalition of consumer advocacy and environmental groups as well as rival power plant operators are opposed to the legislation, arguing it would give Dominion an unfair advantage and stifle wind and solar power in the state.

More: New Haven Register


Idaho Power, Conservation Group Strike Deal on Tx Line


Idaho Power and the Conservation Lands Foundation have struck a deal on two compromise routes to run the Gateway West Transmission Line through the Morley Nelson-Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

The deal entails using routes next to existing power lines that already cross the conservation area south of Kuna. Land beneath the power lines would be removed from the conservation area and, in return, another 4,800 acres near Interstate 84 would be added to the national conservation area and get enhanced restoration work.

The deal, which was brokered by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R), will take the form of legislation cosponsored by the state’s entire congressional delegation. Simpson is expected to introduce the bill Monday.

More: Idaho Statesman


Supreme Court Clears Way for Construction of Coal-Fired Plant

The state Supreme Court on Friday unanimously upheld a 2014 decision by the Department of Health and Environment giving the go-ahead for construction of an 895-MW coal-fired plant in the southwestern part of the state.

The department had approved Sunflower Electric Power’s plans to build the $2.2 billion plant adjacent to an existing one outside Holcomb. Sunflower had been seeking to build the plant for more than a decade. However, the Sierra Club sued because the department didn’t impose limits on the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions. The group additionally argued the department’s standards for other pollutants weren’t stringent enough.

However, the court ruled the Sierra Club could not show the agency’s action was unreasonable or arbitrary. The group “must do more than raise policy arguments,” the court ruling states.

More: The Associated Press


Elmer Smith Plant Will Stop Burning Coal by 2023

Owensboro Municipal Utilities will stop burning coal at its Elmer Smith Power Plant by 2023, citing the plant’s age, environmental compliance and low natural gas prices as the driving factors.

The plant, which was called out by the Sierra Club in a 2007 report as being one of the top polluters in the U.S., was commissioned in 1964. A second larger unit was built in the mid-1970s.

The plant burns about 1.2 million tons of coal yearly.

More: The Associated Press

Lawmakers Lift Moratorium on Nuclear Power Plants


Legislation that would lift a longstanding moratorium on nuclear power plants in the state is on its way to Gov. Matt Bevin to be signed into law.

The House of Representatives passed the measure 65-28 last week, culminating years of efforts by the legislative delegation from the far western portion of the state, where thousands of workers lost their jobs because of the closure of a uranium enrichment plant near Paducah.

Rep. Jim Gooch (R) said the legislation is “a kick in the teeth” to the state’s coal industry, which has lost some 12,000 jobs over the past eight years.

More: Kentucky Today


Senate OKs Fracking Ban; Hogan to Sign

Lawmakers gave final approval Monday to a ban on fracking for oil and natural gas, making it the third state to do so.

The Senate voted 35-10 to approve the ban, which was already approved by the House of Delegates, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who announced his support earlier this month. A moratorium on fracking expires in October. (See Gov.’s Support Puts Md. on Track for Fracking Ban.)

The state will become the first with proven gas reserves to ban fracking by legislative action, according to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. New York banned the drilling process by executive order. Vermont, which has a statutory ban, has no frackable gas reserves, the organization says.

More: The Associated Press


Report: State No. 1 in Blackouts per Capita

The state ranks fourth in the total number of power outages over the past six years and has the highest per capita rate of power outages in the country, according to the Eaton Blackout Tracker Annual Report.

In 2016, there were 192 reported power outages in the state, putting it behind only California, Texas and New York in the total reported number of outages, the report says. The outages averaged 35 minutes and affected 3,244 residents on average.

The report also ranks the state among the worst in the nation for number of outages caused by weather and downed trees, as well as outages caused by power equipment failure and human error.

More: Crain’s Detroit Business

Judge: Pipeline Project Can Seize Land, Pay Later

Energy Transfer Rover Pipeline can immediately seize land along the route of a future natural gas pipeline and settle with property owners later, a federal judge has ruled.

The pipeline will transport an estimated 3.25 Bcf of natural gas produced in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, passing through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and the state, and then into Canada. ET Rover had not been able to reach right-of-way agreements with owners of 166 tracts of land in Livingston, Washtenaw and Lenawee counties.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark A. Goldsmith found that without immediate possession of the land, ET Rover would suffer irreparable harm because of construction delays and added costs and that its compliance with binding contracts would be in jeopardy. He ordered it to deposit more than $2.5 million with the court to be used to compensate property owners losing their lands through eminent domain.

More: Detroit Free Press


84% of State Residents Support Funding for Renewables Research

Eighty-four percent of the state’s residents support funding for renewable energy research, according to The Yale Project on Climate Communication.

The study also shows 71% of Minnesotans “trust climate scientists about global warming” and that the Twin Cities area has the highest understanding rate of accepted climate science, with 77% of residents in Hennepin and Ramsey counties believing “global warming is happening.” Sixty-three percent of Hennepin County residents said global warming is caused by human activities.

Sherburne County ranked lowest for the number of climate change believers, coming in at 61%.

More: MPR News


Tubing Leak Creates Another Delay in Kemper Plant Opening

After a March 9 tubing leak, Southern Co. subsidiary Mississippi Power said last week that it is unsure when the $7.1 billion Kemper County Power Plant, which is already three years behind schedule, will be finished. The plant, most recently, was scheduled to come online in mid-March.

The company has started repair work, and spokesman Jess Shepard said it is still evaluating how much longer this latest setback will take. A month’s delay would force the company to absorb another $25 million to $35 million in losses on top of $2.8 billion in losses that have already been absorbed by Southern shareholders.

Public Service Commissioner Sam Britton said that a $2.88 billion cap on capital costs for the plant, which was instituted in a deal reached with Mississippi Power and the PSC, doesn’t mean the utility will necessarily get to charge ratepayers for that full amount.

More: Mississippi; The Associated Press


House Endorses $10M Per Year Loan for Talen’s Colstrip

The House of Representatives endorsed a bill Friday that would allow the state Board of Investments to loan Talen Energy up to $10 million a year to keep two older units of the Colstrip power plant running for the next five years.

The two units are scheduled to close by July 2022, but Talen representatives said economics could hasten the closings to as early as this year. House Speaker Austin Knudsen said Talen is losing about $30 million a year on Colstrip.

The bill, which passed an initial vote 65-34, must pass a final vote before it goes to the Senate for consideration.

More: The Associated Press


Keystone Pipeline not a Done Deal in the State

Although President Trump approved a federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the project is not a done deal in the state, the only one in the pipeline’s path that hasn’t approved it yet.

Environmental activists are gearing up for a fight over concerns about the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes, and the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive groundwater supply that underlies nearly the entire state.

Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts supports the pipeline, and 33 of the Legislature’s 49 members, mostly Republicans, signed a letter earlier this month endorsing the project. Although some Democrats support the pipeline because of the union jobs it will bring, the party overall is less enthusiastic.

More: The Associated Press


Bill to Restore Rooftop Solar Industry Gets Its First Hearing

Following an exit from the state by major solar companies, a bill aimed at restoring the state’s rooftop solar industry had its first hearing Monday in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Subcommittee on Energy.

Assembly Bill 270 would set a minimum credit of 11 cents/kWh for electricity that is fed back into a utility’s grid from a rooftop solar installation. Rooftop solar customers would still be responsible for fixed charges paid by all utility customers.

New requests for solar dried up after the Public Utilities Commission adopted a net metering rate structure that increased a flat monthly charge and reduced the amount of credit for excess electricity.

More: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Industry Asks PUC to Extend Deadline for Net Metering Grandfathering

NV Energy and rooftop solar installation companies are asking state regulators to extend the deadline to July 1 for eligible customers to opt-in to grandfathered net metering rates. They have requested an expedited decision.

Last year, the Public Utilities Commission grandfathered in residential customers to the more favorable net metering rates for 20 years if they had already installed systems or had an active and approved application pending prior to Dec. 31, 2015. To obtain the rate, the customers with pending applications had to opt-in by notifying NV Energy by Feb. 28. Fewer than 30% of almost 8,000 eligible customers did so.

More than 23,000 customers who already had installed systems were automatically grandfathered in.

More: Las Vegas Review-Journal

Resolution Restates Opposition to Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Burial


As the Trump administration last week announced a $120 million budget request aimed at restarting efforts to license Yucca Mountain as a high-level nuclear waste burial site for 77,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, a resolution was introduced in the Legislature restating opposition to the effort.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt have endorsed Assembly Joint Resolution 10, which was heard Monday by the State Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee’s subcommittee on energy. The committee did not take immediate action on it.

The state is objecting to the project on multiple grounds, including site suitability, the disposal concept, groundwater impacts and transportation issues. Laxalt has requested $7.2 million over the next two years to fight the proposal. Additionally, last week the state Agency for Nuclear Projects presented to a panel of lawmakers a budget of $1.9 million in the first year and $1.85 million in the second year to continue the fight against the project.

More: Las Vegas Review-Journal


El Paso Electric Wants to Delay 2017 Rate Case Filing

El Paso Electric announced Wednesday it plans to seek a delay of its 2017 rate case filing, saying its revenue deficiency does not justify the expense of proceeding with a rate case using dates previously ordered by the Public Regulation Commission.

When the commission authorized the utility to sell its interest in the Four Corners Power Plant, it required EPE to make a general rate case filing in the second quarter of 2017 using a historical test year ending on Dec. 31, 2016.

“While recovery of our significant investments like Montana Power Station Units 3 and 4 is important and will be pursued at a later time if the delay is approved, we don’t expect the postponement of this rate case to significantly impact our financial performance,” said CEO Mary Kipp.

More: KRWG


State Will Give $2K Rebates for EV Purchase



Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a $70 million electric car rebate program that will give $2,000 to state residents who purchase eligible electric cars from participating new car dealerships. The rebate would supplement a federal tax credit of up to $7,500.

The Drive Clean Initiative covers 30 different types of electric cars that are plug-in hybrids, all-electric or hydrogen fuel cell.

A $15 million portion of the funding will be used to improve consumer education about electric cars, install more charging stations and develop new electric car-enabling technologies.

More: The Daily Orange

$11M Awarded in Latest Round of Microgrid Development Competition

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday $11 million in funding for 11 microgrid projects across the state as part of the second stage of the NY Prize Community Microgrid competition.

Each of the 11 winners will receive $1 million through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which administers the prize, to conduct detailed engineering designs and business plans for a microgrid. Winners who advance to the third stage will have access to financing for microgrid construction through NY Green Bank.

The competition began with the selection of 83 communities, out of almost 150 that applied, to receive a share of $8 million to conduct microgrid feasibility studies.

More: New York State

North Carolina

Bill Calls for Study on How Wind Farms Impact State’s Military Operations

Three senators filed a bill in the General Assembly on Tuesday that would bring permits for new wind farms to a standstill while an independent study is conducted on the effects that building wind turbines could have on the state’s military operations.

The Military Operations Protection Act of 2017 would ensure there are no conflicts with the state’s six existing installations before additional projects are developed, said Sen. Harry Brown, who has fought renewable energy development in the state. “It’s unfortunate that taxpayer-subsidized incentives to the renewable energy industry are resulting in higher energy costs to N.C. consumers, but at the end of the day, this bill isn’t about the merits or lack thereof in subsidizing wind energy,” he said.

In 2016, Brown introduced a similar bill that he said was necessary to keep the state from losing its military installations. However, Pentagon officials said there wasn’t a problem.

More: Coast Review Online

Survey: Voters Want Duke to Pay for Coal Ash Cleanup Itself

Three quarters of voters surveyed in a poll commissioned by Conservatives for Clean Energy said they are concerned about Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds, with 83.8% saying the company should foot the bill for cleaning them up, rather than its customers.

Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress are preparing to file for rate increases later this year, which would include asking customers to pay for at least some of the $725 million of the cleanup costs the utilities have already incurred.

The utilities are presently in proceeding before the Utilities Commission seeking to designate $5.2 billion in anticipated coal-ash cleanup costs as asset retirement obligations. The designation would allow Duke to seek rate cases to charge those costs to customers as the money is spent.

More: Charlotte Business Journal


DP&L to Close 2 Coal-Fired Plants

Dayton Power & Light said last week it will shut down its J.M. Stuart and Killen plants by June 2018 because they would not be “economically viable beyond mid-2018.”

DP&L, the Public Utilities Commission and other stakeholders had been negotiating over whether the utility should be allowed to raise electricity prices to pay for upgrades to keep the plants open.

The plants generate about 3,000 MW of power from coal.

More: KWTV


Altus Chamber Wants to Give Military Commission Siting Authority

The Altus Chamber of Commerce wants to give the state’s Strategic Military Planning Commission siting approval for wind farms near military installations, saying the farms can inhibit radar capabilities and disrupt low-level flying routes.

Altus Airforce Base provides about 5,000 jobs and $350 million in annual economic impact to the area, said Brian Bush, president and CEO of the chamber. It wants to protect the area’s military installations as Congress continues to weigh the possibility of base realignment and closure in the future, according to a March 10 letter it sent to two lawmakers.

Base officials said existing wind farms have affected air traffic control radar at Altus, but the base’s training mission has not been substantially affected due to the location of the farms in relation to primary training patterns and routes.

More: The Oklahoman


Business Groups, DEQ Dispute Effects of Cap and Trade

A study commissioned by state business groups found that a cap-and-trade program would cause the state to lose $4.5 billion in GDP and 16,900 jobs by 2050, contradicting a recent study by the Department of Environmental Quality finding the impact of such a program on the state’s economy would likely be small.

The study, commissioned by Associated Oregon Industries and the Oregon Business Association, which forecast allowance prices rising from $13 per metric tonne in 2021 to $84 in 2035, then to $464 in 2050. It also found that in 2016 dollars, retail electricity rates would increase 65 to 118% for most consumers and average retail natural gas prices would experience a 179% hike.

The DEQ study, which only looked at a moment in time, said that in 2035 cap and trade would lead to a change in GDP somewhere between a $282 million gain and a $203 million loss. The business group study forecast a loss of more than $1.2 billion.

More: Portland Business Journal


LP&L Signs Transition Contract with Xcel as It Seeks to Integrate into ERCOT

As part of its efforts to integrate into the ERCOT market, Lubbock Power & Light has signed a power purchase agreement with Xcel Energy subsidiary Southwestern Public Service that will provide 400 MW of capacity and energy scheduling from June 1, 2019, through May 31, 2021. LP&L’s current total requirements contract with SPS is scheduled to expire on May 31, 2019.

In addition to the 400 MW transition contract with SPS, LP&L will replace the total requirements service with a 170-MW partial-requirements wholesale contract signed with SPS in 2010; a 100-MW wind contract through its membership with West Texas Municipal Power Agency; and 114 MW of LP&L-owned generating plants.

Lubbock, which is currently participating in the regulatory approval process to join ERCOT, will transfer approximately 70% of its load to the ERCOT market if approved.

More: Lubbock Power & Light


Senate Passes Bill Allowing Renewable Credits for BPA Power Customers

The State Senate last week held a public hearing on a bill that would allow state utility customers who pay for energy improvement projects at federally owned dams in the Columbia River Basin to save money on their utility bills.

Under SB 5232, passed earlier this month 32-17, electricity produced by the dams, which are operated by the Bonneville Power Administration, would qualify as a renewable resource under the state’s Energy Independence Act created by the 2006 voter-approved Initiative 937. The current renewable goal is 9% or more every year until Dec. 31, 2019. After that, total energy use must be 15% or more from renewable resources by Jan. 1, 2020, and every year after that.

Under current law, customers from 17 public utility districts who purchase power from BPA and pay for hydro upgrades as part of their purchase costs can’t use that hydropower as a renewable resource toward meeting their EIA goals because the dam system is federally owned.

More: Lens



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