Feature: A look at transmission-related legislative proposals in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast

States in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have several transmission-related legislative proposals underway, including offshore wind energy bills in Maryland and an eminent domain bill in New Hampshire. TransmissionHub highlights several of those bills below.

Maryland

The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012, or House Bill 441 and Senate Bill 237, creates a “carve-out” for energy derived from offshore wind in the state renewable energy portfolio standard, or RPS, starting in 2017, and extending beyond 2022.

The legislation establishes an application and review process for proposed offshore wind projects within the state Public Service Commission, which may implement specified special assessments on eligible electricity suppliers to carry out the legislation’s provisions, according to the bills’ fiscal and policy notes.

A “qualified offshore wind project” is defined as a wind turbine electricity generation facility, including the associated transmission-related interconnection facilities and equipment that is located on the Outer Continental Shelf of the Atlantic Ocean in an area designated for leasing by the U.S. Department of the Interior; interconnects to PJM Interconnection at a point located on the Delmarva peninsula; and is approved by the PSC.

As for RPS changes, under the legislation, in 2017 and for every following year, state electricity sales must include an amount derived from offshore wind energy. The amount is set by the PSC each year, based on the projected annual creation of “offshore wind renewable energy credits,” or ORECs, by qualified offshore wind projects, and may not exceed 2.5% of total retail sales.

The PSC may not approve an application for a proposed offshore wind project unless, for instance, the projected net rate impact, combined with the rate impact of other qualified projects, does not exceed $2 per month for an average residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month in 2012 dollars, and does not exceed 2.5% for the average nonresidential customer, over the duration of the proposed OREC pricing schedule.

According to the Senate Finance Committee, the committee had a hearing on SB 237 on Feb. 14, while the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee had a hearing on HB 441 on Feb. 23.

The bills are sponsored by several lawmakers, including Senate President Thomas Mike Miller Jr., and House Speaker Michael Busch, both at the request of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration.

New York

Several transmission-related bills are in the works in New York.

A3346, for instance, sponsored by Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, provides for a review by the state Public Service Commission (PSC) of the siting of electric substations.

No procedure exists for the siting of electric substations, even though a utility can take property for a substation site by condemnation, according to the bill’s memo, which also noted that these substations can have significant impacts on the surrounding communities, particularly in densely populated areas.

The bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions on Jan. 4.

A4804, sponsored by Assembly Member Brian Kolb, provides an expedited process for the reconstruction of existing electric transmission facilities, in existing utility and public rights-of-way in order to provide additional electric capacity to existing transmission facilities without reducing review of environmental or community impacts.

The bill would establish a 30-day timeframe, from the date the application was filed, for the PSC to determine whether the application complies with statutory requirements, according to the bill’s memo.

The bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on Energy on Jan. 4.

A7399, sponsored by Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, along with S5626, sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Parker, call for the PSC, before granting a certificate for the construction of an electric transmission line facility, to find that the facility conforms to the most recent state energy plan and consider whether approval of the facility would cause adverse impacts on the state’s environmental quality due to electric generation.

According to the bills’ memos, the legislation is intended to prevent the approval of projects that may directly result in increased electrical generation produced from “dirty sources,” such as coal that would impact the state’s environment.

According to Cahill’s office, A7399 left the Assembly Committee on Energy on Feb. 14, and, as of Feb. 24, had advanced before the full Assembly.

S5626 was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications on Jan. 4.

Another bill sponsored by Cahill, A7565, along with S5085, sponsored by state Sen. George Maziarz, directs the labor commissioner, in consultation with the PSC, to do a study and report on current trends in the workforce that supports the generation and transmission of power in the utility industry; and authorizes additional studies and reports upon rate hikes, complaints by third parties or upon identification of a shortage.

“The state’s policy shift toward making the alternative energy sectors part of a long term energy strategy has left many [utility] companies in the coal, gas, oil and electric industries with little reason to make serious investments in the workforce,” the bills’ memos said. “However, the time at which alternative energy can be a substantial contributor to New York’s energy needs is many years away. This uncertainty in New York’s energy transition has caused a lack of investment on the part of utilities.”

A7565 was referred to the Assembly Committee on Energy on Jan. 4, while S5085 was reported and committed to the Senate Committee on Finance on Jan. 31.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, the House of Representatives has concurred with the Senate on House Bill 648 regarding eminent domain, as amended.

The bill prohibits public utilities from petitioning for permission to take private land or property rights for the construction or operation of certain transmission facilities.

State Sen. Jeanie Forrester told TransmissionHub Feb. 24 that the House concurred with the Senate, adding that the “Senate president and speaker [of the House] are expected to sign off [on the legislation] and then it goes to the governor.”

In a January interview, she said the bill is not about stopping the Northern Pass project.

The Northern Pass Transmission is a limited liability company organized as a joint venture between Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) and NSTAR (NYSE:NST) to develop, construct, own and maintain the $1.1bn DC line in New Hampshire. The line between the U.S. and Canada would import 1,200 MW of Canadian hydropower, specifically from Hydro-Québec.

Northern Pass on Jan. 31 reiterated that the project “is not predicated on the use of eminent domain,” noting that it is working successfully with property owners to buy land or easements to develop an acceptable route in that area of the North Country where there is no existing transmission right of way.

Rhode Island

State Rep. Raymond Hull has introduced H7632, which according to a Feb. 16 statement, requires electric transmission and electric distribution companies to conduct periodic equipment inspections and to provide a report of those inspections to the state Division of Public Utilities and Carriers.

The bill also directs the division to prepare a report, one year following enactment of the bill, on rates of outages and service disruptions experienced by customers. Furthermore, the bill gives the division the authority to require additional inspections or surveys by the utility companies as it deems appropriate, the statement added.

“Extreme storms will knock out power,” Hull said in the statement. “We can accept that. But we shouldn’t stand by and allow our system to grow old and fragile and result in power outages that last for more than a reasonable amount of time because of poor maintenance and inspection by the utility providers.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Corporations.

Massachusetts

S2143, sponsored by Massachusetts state Sen. Stephen Brewer, states that any penalty levied by the state Department of Public Utilities against an investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company for any violation of the department’s standards of acceptable performance for emergency preparation and restoration of service for electric and gas distribution companies is to be credited by the company to the affected customers.

The credit is to be distributed based on the kilowatt-hours used by the affected customer under certain department regulations, and the credit is to be credited during a single billing month and not be deferred.

However, the bill added, the companies may petition the department to distribute the credit over a period of greater than one month if the credit exceeds $10m.

The bill also calls for each electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company to provide periodic reports to the department and the state emergency management agency regarding emergency conditions and restoration performance during an emergency event.

According to the Senate clerk’s office, the bill has been engrossed, but still needs to be enacted in the Senate. The bill was referred to the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means on Feb. 21.

Vermont

A bill that calls for a study on the costs, benefits and risks associated with the state’s acquisition of up to a 51% ownership interest in the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), is still under review by the Vermont Senate Committee on Finance, state Sen. Vincent Illuzzi told TransmissionHub Feb. 24.

Specifically, S.172, sponsored by Illuzzi and state Sens. Peter Galbraith and Tim Ashe, as amended, calls for a financial advisor to study the costs, benefits and risks associated with Vermont’s acquisition of up to a 51% ownership interest in the state’s high-voltage bulk electric transmission assets, which are owned and financed by Vermont Transco and managed by VELCO.

The financial advisor is to report his or her findings and recommendations to certain legislative committees by April 2.

The legislation was prompted by the proposed merger of Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) and Green Mountain Power (GMP), whose parent company is Gaz Métro.

The bill, which has been met with concerns by stakeholders, also calls for a consultant, who may or may not be the same financial advisor, to study whether Vermont’s acquisition of transmission assets would position the state to influence such public benefits as providing low-income or underserved individuals or communities with beneficial products or services. Those findings and recommendations are also due by April 2.

The secretary of administration is to submit a recommendation by April 9 as to whether the acquisition of up to 51% of Vermont’s transmission assets would benefit the people of Vermont and to provide the reasons for his or her recommendation, according to the bill.

Costs incurred in preparing the reports may be reimbursed from the general fund to the joint fiscal office up to $250,000.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3206 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.