New York state regulators said on Nov. 14 that they are reopening the Rochester Area Reliability Project proceeding in order to give parties an opportunity to reexamine alternatives for certain segments of the project, which calls for the construction of about 21 miles of new 115-kV line.
The project, by Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E), also entails rebuilding two miles of an existing 115-kV line, building a new 1.9-mile, 345-kV line and a new 345-kV/115-kV substation, as well as improving three existing substations in the New York towns of Chili, Gates and Henrietta and the city of Rochester in Monroe, County, N.Y. The project also includes new system upgrades in existing control buildings, the state Public Service Commission (PSC) added in its statement.
The PSC said its decision was based on consideration of comments from local property owners and state and local officials, a report from the administrative law judge assigned to the case on discussions among the parties, and a review of the record in the proceeding.
The PSC’s prior order approving the project is still in effect while the reexamination of alternatives takes place.
As TransmissionHub reported in April, the PSC approved the terms of a joint proposal granting a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to RG&E to increase the reliability of electricity to Rochester. In August, the PSC ordered further review of the agricultural impacts of a proposed substation to be built on a Monroe County farm as part of the project. It was reported then that RG&E plans to begin construction of the project in the summer of 2014 and expects to energize it in the spring of 2016.
In that order, the PSC directed the judge to report back to the PSC on the results of the efforts of the parties’, which include members of the Krenzer family, who own farmland affected by the project, within 30 days.
PSC Chair Audrey Zibelman said in the Nov. 14 statement that the PSC feels it is appropriate to reopen the proceeding, adding, “At the same time, we are sensitive to the need to maintain reliability in the Rochester area, and we recognize that any effort to reevaluating siting issues must move forward in a manner that ensures continued reliability.”
In a separate Nov. 14 statement, the company said it is encouraged by Zibelman’s sensitivity to the need to maintain reliability in the area “because the timing of the project is critical to our service for hundreds of thousands of our customers in the Rochester region.”
RG&E said it is prepared to work diligently with all of the parties to address the PSC’s concerns.
According to the order, in their petition for rehearing, the Krenzers asserted that the construction of the project will affect about 675 acres of their land and argued that other alternative locations for “Substation 255” proposed by RG&E in its original application would have been preferable because of the relative ease of building access roads to those sites and the avoidance of active farmland.
PSC staff and RG&E argued that the Krenzers’ objections are largely speculative and based on an incorrect interpretation of the certificate and its conditions.
The PSC also said in its order that all of the rehearing requests relate to the segment of the project that traverses various properties owned by the Krenzer family, and no party has challenged the need for the project or any other segment of the project, which is necessary to maintain reliability in the Rochester area.
Recent load forecast models for RG&E’s service territory, combined with other transmission upgrades soon to be completed by the company, suggest that while the project is still of critical importance, the reliability impact it is designed to correct may manifest later than the company previously projected.
Also, the PSC added, RG&E expects to complete upgrading two transformers at “Station 80” by Dec. 31, earlier than the June 2014 date assumed in the joint proposal. Those upgrades, combined with the area’s new load forecast, allow for additional flexibility regarding the project’s in-service date.
In his Sept. 30 report to the PSC, the judge said the parties now have a full understanding of the agricultural impacts but there remains no agreement regarding the ultimate location of Substation 255 or the route to be followed for Circuits 940 and 941.
Noting that the judge suggested in his report that RG&E’s originally preferred route for those circuits, along the north side of the New York Power Authority (NYPA) rights-of-way, would have less agricultural impact than the certified “zig-zag” routing that traverses the Krenzers’ property, the PSC ordered that the record in the case be reopened to examine whether the circuits’ route may be modified.
“The report questions the suitability of the Krenzers’ proposed alternative to the location of Station 255, but we will require the parties to consider whether there might be other practical alternatives,” the PSC said.
Among other things, the PSC said that within 30 days of the order’s date, RG&E is to update and file its projection for the project’s need date and a major milestone schedule for completion of the certificated project.
“Because of our concern for reliability, we will require RG&E to continue the work of planning for the construction of the certified project without delay, while simultaneously reexamining alternatives as ordered here,” the PSC said.
RG&E is a subsidiary of Iberdrola USA, which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola S.A.