Exclusive Feature: East Coast legislators propose transmission-related bills, including on eminent domain in Georgia

Legislators across the East Coast are working on transmission-related legislation, including lawmakers in Maryland, who are working on a bill that requires state regulators and each electric company to establish priorities for remediation of poorly performing feeder lines and other distribution lines that may be partly paid for using the “Electric Reliability Remediation Fund,” a new special fund established under the bill.

Maryland

In Maryland, the state House of Delegates passed HB0035 on third reading on Feb. 7, according to the state General Assembly’s website.

The bill, sponsored by state Del. Miller, requires the PSC and each electric company to establish priorities for remediation of poorly performing feeder lines and other distribution lines that may be partly paid for using the “Electric Reliability Remediation Fund,” a new special fund established under the bill.

The bill, its fiscal and policy note added, redirects the payment of civil penalties assessed for violations of specified service quality and reliability standards from the general to the new fund. The bill takes effect on July 1.

The new fund, to be administered by the PSC, will be established to provide resources to target remediation efforts to improve electric service quality and reliability for the worst performing electric distribution lines in Maryland.

An eligible reliability measure under the bill means a replacement of or an improvement in existing infrastructure of an electric company that, for instance, is made on or after June 1, is designed to improve public safety or infrastructure reliability, and is not included in the current base rate of the electric company as determined in the electric company’s most recent base rate proceeding.

Recent rate cases before the PSC by Exelon’s (NYSE:EXC) Baltimore Gas and Electric and Pepco Holdings’ (NYSE:POM) Potomac Electric Power Company have involved reliability matters.

New Hampshire

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has adopted with amendment House Bill 569, which is sponsored by state Rep. Laurence Rappaport, among others, and relates to the placement of all new electric transmission lines in the state.

According to the bill, use of existing public rights of way, or, when available, of private rights of way is to be the preferred, but not required, option for locating all new electric transmission lines.

Burial of electric transmission lines is to be the preferred, but not required, option for all elective electric transmission lines with supports of more than 50 feet.

It may be presumed, the bill noted, that any line not required for system reliability and not proposed to be substantially buried will have an unreasonably adverse effect on aesthetics. The project’s applicant may demonstrate that an above-ground line should be approved due to particular circumstances, including engineering feasibility, adverse environmental impact, substantially disproportionate cost factors and lack of negative impact for the route involved.

A major transmission project that is currently in the works and of interest to residents in the state is Northeast Utilities’ (NYSE:NU) Northern Pass project, which, according to TransmissionHub data, would involve 187 miles of 300-kV DC and 40 miles of 345-kV AC transmission lines, and would bring renewable energy from Quebec into New Hampshire to satisfy the need for additional renewable energy in New England.

Leon Olivier, executive vice president and COO of Northeast Utilities, said on Feb. 6 that the company remains bullish on the project, which “has never looked so good” in providing benefits than after what has been experienced in the region this winter with recent cold spells.

ISO-New England has given the project’s developers permission to move forward after it determined that the project will not have a significant adverse effect upon the reliability or operating characteristics of the region’s bulk power system, provided that the project proceeds in accordance with certain requirements.

Last June, the company proposed a new route for the project, partially underground and taking into consideration concerns about potential visual impacts and property rights, in the northernmost section of the project area in New Hampshire’s North Country.

New York

In New York, A01244, sponsored by Assembly member Kevin Cahill, provides that before granting a certificate for the construction of an electric transmission line facility, the state Public Service Commission (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 due to electric generation, according to the Assembly’s website.

The bill was referred on Jan. 8 to the Assembly’s Committee on Energy.

According to the bill’s memo, in September 2010, the PSC granted a certificate for the construction of the Hudson Transmission Project, which connects the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) governmental customers to PJM Interconnection. 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 ISO (NYISO) wholesale electrical market. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation testified that the project would result in additional coal-fired generation in PJM and that only 13% of NYISO power was generated from coal.

The 2009 State Energy Plan, the memo added, included energy and transportation strategies that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including the need to increase the amount of energy produced by cleaner burning and renewable resources. The PSC’s decision regarding the project appears to contradict policies enumerated in the energy plan, the memo said.

The bill is the same as S00699, which on Jan. 8 was referred to the state Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.

Another bill, A01246, is also sponsored by Cahill and was referred to the Committee on Energy on Jan. 8.

There is no similar bill before the state Senate, according to the Assembly’s website.

According to the bill’s memo, the bill amends section 126 of the Public Service Law to require the PSC deny an application for a certificate to build or operate an electric transmission facility unless it determines that proposed project would complement the state’s long-range plans for the expansion, maintenance and improvement of New York’s electric infrastructure and the electricity generated as a result of the line’s operation will meet power plant emissions and performance standards required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

As for the bill’s justification, the memo noted that the state’s transmission system has not been upgraded in decades, resulting in an over-abundance of low-cost electricity upstate; expensive and inefficient power downstate and the stunting of the development of renewable resources.

“Modernizing our existing infrastructure will create jobs and revitalize struggling power plants that serve as major employers and contributors to the property tax base for many communities,” the memo noted. “Moreover, it will lower costs and strengthen system reliability.”

The approval of new electric transmission lines that could potentially stifle much needed investments in existing infrastructure or deliver power produced by generators that do not meet the state’s performance thresholds is not in the state’s greater economic interests, the memo said.

The PSC is reviewing various proposals related to the New York Energy Highway Initiative including one by a NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) subsidiary that the company said will reduce congestion costs by nearly $2.3bn.

Georgia

A bill involving electric transmission lines and eminent domain is in its second reading in the Georgia House of Representatives, according to the state General Assembly’s website.

According to the current version of the bill, before the effective date of the bill, before exercising the right of eminent domain for purposes of building or expanding an electric transmission line, the utility is to select a practical and feasible route for the location of the line.

In selecting the route for the location of the line, the utility is to consider existing land uses in the geographic area where the line is to be located, existing corridors, existing environmental conditions in the area, engineering practices related to the construction and operation of the line, and costs related to the construction, operation and maintenance of the line.

In selecting the route for the location of the line, the utility is to not use the costs related to the construction, operation and maintenance of the line as the sole factor. Instead, the utility is to consider certain factors in choosing the route for the line, including existing environmental conditions in the area.

After the utility has chosen the preferred route for the location of the line, the utility is to attempt in good faith to negotiate a settlement with each property owner from whom the utility needs to acquire property rights for the line. In connection with the negotiations, the utility is to provide the property owner with a written offer to buy the property rights, a document that describes the property rights and a drawing that shows the location of the line on the owner’s property, the bill added.

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.