The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will be looking at its March 14 meeting at the issue of whether to appoint an advisory committee to help it with siting approvals for large power plants and high-voltage transmission lines.
In 2005, the state Legislature transferred authority for the siting and routing of large electric generating plants and high-voltage transmission lines from the Environmental Quality Board to the commission. Since that time, the commission’s experience in overseeing both the certificate of need process as well as the siting and routing process has led to the need for rule changes to clarify and improve existing rule procedures, said commission staff in a March 5 briefing memo.
The commission directed staff to open a rulemaking to consider amending the rules governing certificates of need and site and route permits for large electric generating facilities and high-voltage transmission lines. In December 2012, the commission requested comments on amending the rules and asking that persons interested in serving on an advisory committee make a request to do so in their comments. The commission received a broad range of comments on the rulemaking, as well as thirteen requests to serve on the advisory committee.
Among the responding parties:
- No CapX 2020 and United Citizens Action Network (U-CAN) filed comments on the possible rule amendments and made a request to serve on the advisory committee. The comments addressed a range of issues, with an emphasis on strengthening notice requirements, citizen participation, advisory task force structure and environmental review.
- Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL), which is operates in Minnesota through Northern States Power, supported the commission’s rulemaking objectives and requested that two representatives of Xcel, one with a background in power supply planning and one with a background in environmental analysis, serve on the advisory committee.
- ITC Midwest LLC, an independent transmission company, filed comments recommending that the rules be amended to describe the role of regional transmission organizations such as the Midwest ISO in both transmission planning and construction. ITC Midwest also recommended changing the certificate of need rules’ exemption request process by amending the application content requirements to avoid unnecessary exemption requests. ITC Midwest also requested to serve on the advisory committee.
- The Minnesota Wind Coalition, representing four wind developers, recommended rule changes to reflect the role of independent power producers in developing and operating Minnesota’s transmission and generation facilities. The coalition recommended other changes, including clarifications to the procedures used for non-contested cases, as well as changes to the notice plan review process. The coalition also requested to serve on the committee.
- Great River Energy and Minnesota Power recommended changes to improve the exemption request process, to increase consistency in notice requirements, to resolve timing conflicts, and to clarify the process for holding joint hearings on both the certificate of need application and the site or route permit application. Great River Energy and Minnesota Power requested a representative to serve on the committee.
- Dairyland Power Cooperative, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Missouri River Energy Services, Otter Tail Power, Rochester Public Utilities and Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency own generating facilities and high-voltage lines in Minnesota. They jointly filed comments addressing a number of issues and recommending changes to the notice plan requirements, the certificate of need exemption request process, and environmental review. They also recommended better use of joint proceedings for reviewing certificate of need and site or route permit applications. They recommended improving the permit modification process, particularly to avoid multiple commission proceedings for changes in route alignments. In addition, they recommended clarifying the types of projects requiring a certificate of need and outlining steps for certifying projects under the biennial transmission projects report process. These utilities requested having at least one representative serve on the committee.
Based on the number of requests to serve on the advisory committee and the scope of comments received, commission staff said in the briefing memo that it recommends that the commission convene an advisory committee and appoint those who have requested to serve. With these intervenor comments in mind, staff said it will prepare a working rules draft for discussion at a first advisory committee meeting.