Legislative round-up: A look at proposed transmission-related bills in the East

Transmission-related legislation has been proposed in various state Legislatures in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. TransmissionHub presents a round-up of various proposals below.

New York

New York Assembly Member Kevin Cahill has introduced transmission-related bills, including A01159, which according to the New York State Assembly’s website, directs the labor commissioner, in consultation with the state Public Service Commission (PSC) to conduct a study and report on current trends in the workforce that supports the generation and transmission of power in the utility industry. It also authorizes additional studies and reports upon rate hikes, complaints by third parties or upon identification of a shortage.

According to the bill’s memo, New York’s traditional energy sectors are falling behind on workforce development.

“It is certain that because of the lack of understand[ing] of what the workforce needs are within New York’s utility industry there will be an ‘energy gap,’ meaning a period of time where the traditional energy industries failed to take necessary action to ensure that the workforce and infrastructure needs were [met] to guarantee a smooth transition to alternative energy at a point in time where alternative energies are able to produce the amounts of energy necessary to replace some forms of traditional energy production,” the memo said.

Another bill Cahill is sponsoring is A01244, which provides that before granting a certificate for the construction of an electric transmission line facility, the PSC must 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.

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

The 2009 State Energy Plan included energy and transportation strategies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the need to increase the amount of energy produced by cleaner burning and renewable resources.

The PSC’s decision in 2010 to grant a certificate for the construction of the eight-mile underground Hudson Transmission Project, which aims to connect the New York Power Authority’s governmental customers to PJM Interconnection, seems to contradict policies enumerated in the plan, the memo added.

“The PSC approved the certificate despite testimony from various participants who argued that the facility was unnecessary due to existing electrical capacity in the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) wholesale electrical market,” the memo said.

Both bills were referred to the Assembly Committee on Energy on Jan. 9.

The “same as” Senate bill for A01244 is S00699, sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Parker. That bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Jan. 9.

Parker is also sponsoring S01616, which, among other things, directs the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to conduct studies related to the state’s electric transmission system, the state’s natural gas infrastructure and a comprehensive energy plan for the downstate region of the state.

Another bill, S01344, sponsored by state Sen. George Maziarz, prevents gas and electric companies from expanding transmission lines or electric generating facilities for lines and facilities originating outside of New York.

Both bills were referred to the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee on Jan. 9.

Assembly Member Brian Kolb is sponsoring a bill, A01731, which 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 an application is filed, for the PSC to determine whether the application complies with statutory requirements.

The bill was referred to the Assembly Energy Committee on Jan. 9.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, state Assemblyman John McKeon is sponsoring transmission-related bills, including A3621, which establishes requirements for newly installed and replacement electric utility poles and transmission towers.

The bill requires the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to adopt standards to require that electric public utilities installing new or replacement electric distribution utility poles install the highest class of wood poles.

Among other things, the bill also requires that the BPU adopt standards, consistent with federal law, concerning the installation of new or replacement transmission towers. The standards would require that the utilities install towers built of the highest class or grade of material, as appropriate.

Another bill sponsored by McKeon is A3622, which directs the BPU to study the feasibility of adopting certain requirements for installation of new and replacement electric distribution utility poles and transmission towers.

The bill directs the BPU to study, prepare and submit to the governor and Legislature, within six months of the bill’s effective date, a written report making findings and recommendations concerning the feasibility of establishing requirements concerning the installation of new or replacement electric distribution utility poles.

In conducting the study, the BPU is to consult with relevant persons and public and private entities in other states that have used the types of utility poles, transmission towers or other standards described in the bill; consider the requirements of the National Electrical Code and other applicable national and international standards; and consider the cost to ratepayers, municipalities, electric public utilities and the state associated with the implementation of the bill’s requirements.

As of Dec.17, 2012, the bills have been referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, according to the Legislature’s website.

Virginia

State Del. Alfonso Lopez has introduced HB 1943, which requires the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC), when required to approve the construction of any electrical utility facility, to consider the long-term price stability of any fuels used in the generation of energy from the facility, according to the state’s Legislative Information System website.

According to the bill, no electrical transmission line of 138 kV or more is to be built unless the SCC, after at least 30 days’ advance notice, approves such line.

Among other things, the bill also notes that if the local comprehensive plan of an affected county or municipality designates corridors or routes for electric transmission lines and the line is proposed to be built outside such corridors or routes, the county or municipality may provide adequate evidence that the existing planned corridors or routes designated in the plan can adequately serve the company’s needs.

According to the website, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Labor on Jan. 9.

Maryland

A bill, HB0029, sponsored by state Del. Cathy Vitale prohibits the state Public Service Commission (PSC) from authorizing an electric company to adjust the electric company’s rates or impose any fee to recover profits lost during a disruption in electrical service.

The PSC in October 2012 ruled that electric companies may no longer include sales lost during the first 24 hours of a major outage event in their bill stabilization adjustment calculations. The question arose following the June 2012 derecho storm, which caused extensive property damage and power outages for more than 1 million Maryland citizens, according to the PSC.

According to the state General Assembly’s website, as of Jan. 9, the bill is in the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee.

New Hampshire

As previously reported, state Rep. Larry Rappaport plans to introduce transmission-related bills, likely at the end of this month, including one that requires all elective transmission lines to be buried.

According to ISO New England, transmission lines are either needed for system reliability or they are elective, that is, not needed to keep the lights on, Rappaport told TransmissionHub on Jan. 3.

“My burial bill says that all elective lines have to be buried and if a line is needed for system reliability, then we suggest bury it, but it doesn’t have to be buried; in other words, it’s optional,” he said.

Another bill would require that any entity proposing a transmission line project must go before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Commission (SEC) and provide fully costed burial options, he said.

Additionally, another bill would require all transmission line projects to use state transportation rights of way whenever possible.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3203 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.