Transmission developers propose streamlined process for projects using existing ROWs

Transmission developers have proposed modifications to New York’s Article VII of the Public Service Law, including that a shortened application, or relief from existing application requirements, should be allowed for transmission projects using existing rights of way (ROWs).

According to the state Public Service Commission (PSC), Article VII, “Siting of Major Utility Transmission Facilities,” is the section of the New York State Public Service Law that requires a full environmental, public health and safety impact review of the siting, design, construction, and operation of major transmission facilities in the state.

The comments, by the New York Transmission Owners (NYTOs) and others, were filed with the PSC in the proceeding in which the PSC received various transmission proposals that address the alternating current (AC) electric transmission corridor that traverses the Mohawk Valley Region, the Capital Region and the Lower Hudson Valley (Case 12-T-0502).

As reported, in its Nov. 30, 2012, order, the PSC said various studies have identified the corridor as a source of persistent congestion. The corridor includes facilities connected to Marcy, New Scotland, Leeds and Pleasant Valley substations, and two major electrical interfaces that are often referred to as “Central East,” and “UPNY/SENY.”

The PSC solicited written public statements of intent from developers and transmission owners proposing projects that will increase transfer capacity through the congested transmission corridor, including the Central East and UPNY/SENY interfaces and meet the objectives of the Energy Highway Blueprint.

In a Feb. 7 notice, the PSC said it recognized that some projects will require review under Article VII of the Public Service Law and explained that staff would develop procedural recommendations for managing further project-specific proceedings.

In order to implement the PSC’s directives, staff proposed limited waivers and modifications to the Article VII regulations that will be applied in the Article VII review of any of the AC transmission proposals that were submitted by Jan. 25.

The primary goal is to ensure that any such application contains pertinent information to help the PSC expeditiously decide whether to grant a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need.

The PSC also said that the proposed rule changes would streamline the certification process by avoiding the need for future applicants to seek case-specific routine waivers and clarifying certain information requirements in the existing regulations.

The New York Power Authority, Long Island Power Authority, CH Energy Group‘s (NYSE:CHG) Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED) subsidiaries Consolidated Edison Company of New York (Con Edison)/Orange and Rockland Utilities, Niagara Mohawk Power d/b/a National Grid plc subsidiary National Grid USA, and Iberdrola S.A.‘s New York State Electric & Gas/Rochester Gas and Electric, collectively called the NYTOs, said in their in April 8 comments that they generally agree with and support the staff’s proposal.

The NYTOs submitted the comments on behalf of the New York Transmission Company.

The NYTOs proposed additional modifications to the Article VII and environmental management and construction plan (EM&CP) processes. Currently, the Article VII application requirements for transmission projects, regardless of their scope, are the same. A shortened application, or relief from existing application requirements, should be allowed for transmission projects using existing ROWs, the NYTOs added.

Also, EM&CP guidelines, best management practices, or other Article VII procedures should not be changed during each project’s Article VII and EM&CP process and should be consistent for all Energy Highway projects.

Among other things, the NYTOs also said that Article VII conditions typically impose a requirement that condemnation proceedings do not begin until the EM&CP is approved. “In order to expedite the Energy Highway projects, the commission should allow for the commencement of condemnation proceedings with the issuance of the certificate of environmental compatibility and public need,” the NYTOs said.

Cricket Valley Energy Center (CVE), in its April 8 comments, also proposed changes to the proposed rules that will expedite a decision by the PSC on a qualifying Article VII application.

Currently PSC rules do not provide any deadline for making a decision on Article VII applications and the typical time for completion of the decision process for major Article VII transmission line proposals can take between 14 months and two years after an application is deemed compliant.

CVE said, “Since the goal of the proposed rules is to provide for commission approval ‘in an expeditious manner’ of transmission line projects submitted [under] this proceeding, [CVE] therefore suggests that the proposed rules adopt a six months deadline for commission decision on the Article VII application for transmission line projects submitted [by Jan. 25] which are 25 miles or less in length and would utilize at least 90% or more of an existing ROW.”

NextEra Energy Transmission, in its April 8 comments, said that while it supports proposed revisions as advanced by the DPS staff, the revisions do not go far enough to streamline the certification of the more straightforward Article VII applications that satisfy the objectives noted in the PSC’s orders in the proceeding.

NextEra proposed additional items for inclusion. For instance, for any application that submitted a proposal for an AC transmission project by Jan. 25, in the proceeding, the applicant is to be deemed a public utility for purposes of any zoning use classification or other local substantive or procedural requirement that applies to uses or facilities classified as public utilities under applicable local laws, ordinances, resolutions, standards and other requirements regardless of whether the applicant is an incumbent load-serving entity or an independent transmission developer.

Also, for any applicant that submitted a proposal by Jan. 25, in the event real property comprising existing utility right-of-way (ROW), or real property adjacent or contiguous to an existing utility ROW, is proposed in an application for more than 75% of the route for a new major electric transmission facility, then the applicant is not required to present an evaluation of alternative routes or technologies in the application, but may be required to evaluate alternative modifications to the proposed route, as required.

Among other things, NextEra also said that if the PSC proposes to review projects in competing Article VII proceedings, Article VII applications that involve similar projects in all or substantial portions of the same ROW, that are deemed compliant with applicable filing requirements, are to be considered in one proceeding on a common record and treated as alternatives to each other.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.