Compact aims for states ‘to look outside’ borders

A new transmission line siting compact that sets timelines for when action must be taken on proposed interstate transmission lines, including when public and evidentiary hearings must be held, will be introduced in 2013 in Kansas, North Dakota and the state of Washington, according to Kansas Rep. Tom Sloan.

“We’re looking to add others” in this discussion, Sloan told TransmissionHub on Dec. 4.

Ultimately, it will work best if the compact is introduced nationwide, but it has to have contiguous states sign on, he said.

The compact, which would take effect only if a proposed line runs through three contiguous states that are members of the compact, would benefit Kansas by helping the state become a “net exporter of energy, so if we can facilitate moving the power from [the] generation site to load centers, that will help us,” he said.

He continued: “Energy policy for one state is interesting and important, but energy policy on a regional basis, or a national basis, helps us all. This is an effort to consciously get commissions the authority to look outside their state border and to work together for a regional and national benefit.”

Such interstate compacts were specifically authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Sloan said the compact is a separate effort from the Obama administration’s interagency rapid response team for transmission (RRTT), noting that under the compact, states can work collaboratively.

In October 2011, the Obama administration said it would accelerate the permitting and construction of seven proposed electric transmission lines under the RRTT.

“If we can have the federal streamlining,…it works even better,” Sloan said.

Bill Smith, executive director of the Organization of MISO States, told TransmissionHub on Dec. 4 of the RRTT and new compact language: “They both are addressing the same point. Federal land really needs federal approval, so fast federal approval and federal approval that’s coordinated with the state consideration of any given line is far more efficient than having the processes go separately.”

Sloan said that no specific projects are identified in the compact language, “but there are some projects out there for which it might be very applicable,” including a proposal by Clean Line Energy.

One of the projects that Clean Line is working on is the Plains & Eastern project, which is a 700-mile, 600-kV HVDC line that will connect the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The line is expected to interconnect with SPP at or near Xcel Energy‘s (NYSE:XEL) Hitchland substation in the north-central Texas Panhandle and terminate at a substation at or near TVA’s 500-kV Shelby substation in Memphis, Tenn.

The $3.5bn project, which is in its first of two development phases, has a total capacity of 7,000 MW and will transport renewable energy produced in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to population centers in the east.

In describing the compact language, Sloan said, for example, if a utility proposed a transmission line that would run from Kansas through Missouri and Kentucky and wind up in Maryland, that utility would file one application – for instance, with Maryland state regulators.

The Maryland Public Service Commission would ensure the application was sent to the other states’ commissions “and they would schedule a meeting at which three persons from each of the states…would evaluate the application.”

If they found the application to be complete, “then they would go ahead and start to schedule public hearings in each of the states that are affected.”

A decision would be made within 270 days of a filing. “The big thing is that it will allow the states to sit together, evaluate the application, have specific deadlines for the process and a deadline for making a decision, without taking away the public’s right to know, comment and participate,” Sloan added. “It also seeks to facilitate involvement by tribal and federal agencies.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3061 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.