N.M. regulators approve SPS’ proposed 345-kV project in Eddy, Lea counties

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, in a Nov. 30 final order, accepted in its entirety a recommended decision by a hearing examiner that called for the commission to grant to Southwestern Public Service (SPS) approval of a proposed 345-kV project in Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico.

As noted in the final order, SPS, in its May application, requested that the commission adopt an order:

  • Issuing a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CCN) authorizing SPS to build and operate the proposed 345-kV transmission line and associated facilities that will extend from SPS’ Hobbs generating substation to its China Draw substation
  • Approving the location of that proposed 345-kV transmission line segments and associated facilities
  • Making a determination that the proposed 150-foot right of way (ROW) width is necessary to build, operate, and maintain the proposed 345-kV transmission line segments
  • Authorizing SPS to accrue an allowance for funds used during construction (AFUDC) of the line and associated facilities

The final order noted that according to SPS, the proposed line is necessary to serve the company’s existing and expanding New Mexico retail loads in southeastern New Mexico, and to enhance reliability of SPS’ southeastern New Mexico transmission system by reducing potential overload and low voltage conditions.

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) prepared a high priority incremental load study (HPILS) that demonstrated that the proposed project is needed, and based on the HPILS, the SPP issued notifications to construct to SPS for the three transmission line segments, the new Kiowa substation, and upgrades to other substation facilities.

SPS said that the proposed project’s estimated cost is about $163m, which includes AFUDC, the final order added, noting that the project’s total cost will be allocated to SPS’ New Mexico retail jurisdiction and other jurisdictions based on the SPP’s Base Plan Funded-Highway/Byway cost allocation methodology.

According to SPS’ application, the proposed project will be needed by June 2018. The company also said that an environmental assessment established that the proposed project’s location is on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, New Mexico State Land Office (NMSLO) lands, and on private lands, and will not unduly impair environmental values in the areas where the proposed project will be built and operated.

The BLM issued a finding of no significant impact and decision record, and issued permits for the line and new Kiowa substation. The BLM also informed that the NMSLO has issued a permit for the line segments that are located on state lands, and SPS, which has obtained most of the easements for the private lands, is negotiating for easements on the remaining private lands, the final order added.

Commission staff in September recommended that the commission approve the requests that SPS has made in the case, along with granting location approval for the new Kiowa substation, with these conditions:

  • That SPS file copies of all construction permits received for the projects within two weeks of receipt of the final permit required
  • That SPS file the actual costs of the projects as soon as they become available
  • That SPS file a notice of the dates that the projects are placed into service

The final order further noted that the hearing examiner issued the recommended decision, recommending that the commission issue a final order that grants to SPS a CCN; approves the location for the line segments and new substation; determines that a minimum 150-foot ROW width for the line segments is appropriate and necessary; and authorizes SPS to accrue AFUDC for the proposed project.

The commission said, among other things, that it finds that the recommended decision “is supported by substantial evidence in the record and therefore incorporates the [recommended decision] in its entirety by reference as if fully set forth in this order.”

SPS is a subsidiary of Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL).

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3067 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.