Note: These minutes are in draft form pending approval by the Board at its next public meeting.
Minutes of the 747th Meeting
November 8, 2013
The 747th meeting of the Nebraska Power Review Board (“the Board” or “PRB”) was held in the Liquor Control Commission Hearing Room, 5th floor, Nebraska State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska. The roll was called and present were Chairman Siedschlag, Vice Chairman Lichter, Mr. Haase, and Mr. Reida. Mr. Morehouse had informed the Board several months ago that he would not be able to attend the meeting. The executive director announced that a quorum was present. The executive director stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on October 29, 2013. All background materials for the agenda items to be acted on had been provided to all Board members on the DocLanding electronic distribution system, and a copy of the materials was in each Board member’s notebook. Executive Director Texel announced that a copy of the Nebraska Open Meetings Act was on display on the north wall of the room for the public to review, and another copy of the Open Meetings Act was available in a three-ring binder on a table in the back of the room. A copy of all materials that the Board would consider was available for public inspection on a table in the back of the room, as well as extra copies of the agenda.
The Board first considered the draft minutes from its October 11, 2013, meeting. The staff did not have any recommended changes. Mr. Reida moved to approve the minutes. Mr. Haase seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Siedschlag – yes, Vice Chairman Lichter – yes, Mr. Haase – yes, Mr. Morehouse – absent, and Mr. Reida – yes. The motion carried 4 – 0.
The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of October 2013. The expenses for October were $26,537.42 in personal services, $20,908.34 in operating expenses, and $845.74 in travel expenses. The total expenses were $48,291.50. Executive Director Texel explained that the personal services category was higher than usual because there were three pay periods in the month of October. He also explained that the bill for the new office furniture had been paid in October, making the operating expenses higher than normal. Mr. Haase moved to accept the expense report. Mr. Reida seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Siedschlag – yes, Vice Chairman Lichter – yes, Mr. Haase – yes, Mr. Morehouse – absent, and Mr. Reida – yes. The motion carried 4 – 0.
The next item on the agenda was consideration of application PRB-3738-M. This is an application filed by the Twin Valleys Public Power District to construct a microwave communication facility in its service area. The application was filed on October 16, 2013. The microwave communication facility would be an addition to Twin Valleys PPD’s existing microwave communication system. In October 2012, the PRB approved application PRB-3692-M. In the 2012 application, Twin Valleys PPD allowed Cambridge Telephone Company to provide the microwave service at the Cambridge and Medicine Creek substations. In the PRB-3738-M application, Twin Valleys PPD explains that the service since installation has only been available 82% of the time. This caused Twin Valleys PPD to incur additional costs, and irrigators lost potentially valuable off-peak pumping opportunities. Twin Valleys PPD now wants to replace the Cambridge Telephone Company’s WiMAX system at Medicine Creek Substation and construct its own microwave communications facility at that location to improve the reliability of its system. A Notice of Filing and Hearing Date was sent to all common carrier communications companies registered with Nebraska Public Service Commission as operating in Twin Valleys PPD’s service area. Those receiving notice were; CenturyLink QC of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Great Plains Communications of Blair, Nebraska, Arapahoe Telephone Company of Arapahoe, Nebraska, Rural Telephone Services, Company, Inc. of Lenora, Kansas, Cambridge Telephone Company of Cambridge, Nebraska, Glenwood Telephone Membership Corp. of Blue Hill, Nebraska, Consolidated Telecom, Inc. of Lincoln, Nebraska, Hartman Telephone Exchange d/b/a BW Telecom of Benkelman, Nebraska, Curtis Telephone Company of Lincoln, Nebraska and Citizens Telecommunications Co. of Nebraska, headquartered in Dallas, Pennsylvania. The Board did not receive any protests or objections concerning this application. The executive director noted that the criteria the Board must consider in order to approve a microwave communications application are set out in Neb. Rev. Stat. section 70-1021. The three criteria are: 1) In the judgment of the PRB the district is not receiving the required quality of service and will not within a reasonable time receive the required quality of service from the regulated carrier or carriers involved, or 2) that the regulated carriers would not provide the required quality of service by the same or alternate methods, at the same or lower costs to the district, and 3) such construction would be in the public interest. As required by Neb. Rev. Stat. section 37-807(3), the PRB consulted with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to ensure that the approval of this application would not harm any threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat. The Commission stated in a letter dated November 4, 2013 that the proposed project would have “no effect” on said species, and the Commission did not object to the approval of the project. Executive Director Texel recommended that the Board waive the hearing and approve PRB-3738-M. Mr. Reida moved to waive the hearing and approve application PRB-3738-M. Mr. Haase seconded the Motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Siedschlag – yes, Vice Chairman Lichter – yes, Mr. Haase – yes, Mr. Morehouse – absent, and Mr. Reida – yes. The motion carried 4 – 0.
The next item on the agenda was to consider application PRB-3739. This is an application filed by the Lincoln Electric System (LES), the City of Lincoln’s municipal electric utility. The application was originally filed on October 17, 2013. An amended application was filed on October 25, 2013. The application is for approximately 5.5 miles of 115 kV transmission line and a 115 kV switching substation. The facilities would be located southwest of the City of Lincoln. The line would start at the existing LES substation at 40th and Rokeby Road. It would then connect to a proposed new substation at Southwest 7th Street and Bennet Road, where will interconnect with an existing north-south 115kV line. The original application did not include the substation, so an amended application was filed to add the substation as part of the proposed project. The project would cost approximately $6,500,000. The transmission line would be $3.7 million and the substation would be $2.8 million. The Board sent a written notice of filing and hearing date to the Nebraska Public Power District, the Norris Public Power District, and the Omaha Public Power District. All three utilities that were provided notice submitted a Consent and Waiver form consenting to approval of the application and waiving a hearing and further notice. The Board also published public notice of filing and the opportunity to intervene in the Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper on October 30, 2013. The PRB did not receive any Objections, Protests, or Interventions. As required by Neb. Rev. Stat. section 37-807(3), the Board consulted with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to ensure that approval of the application would not harm any state-listed threatened or endangered species or their critical habitat. In a letter dated November 4, 2013, the Commission stated that even though the project is in the range of the threatened Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, there are no records of that species within 5 miles of the project area, and no known habitat for that species is in or near the project area. The Commission determined the project would have “no effect” on state-listed threatened or endangered species and therefore did not object to approval. The Notice stated that if the Board determines the necessary findings can be made without a hearing, and if no interested party with standing has filed a Petition for Intervention to protest the approval of the application, the Board may waive the need for a hearing and consider approval of PRB-3739 during its public meeting. Dan Pudenz, LES’s Vice President for Energy Delivery, filed an affidavit providing information about the project and addressing the criteria required by Neb. Rev. Stat. section 70-1014 for approval. In the affidavit, Mr. Pudenz explained that the project would improve system reliability. It would also provide an additional 115 kV electrical power source to the substation at 40th Street and Rokeby Road, allowing the substation to remain operational during times when the existing 115 kV sources are unavailable for any reason. Finally, it is necessary to support future load growth in the southwestern part of the City. Chairman Siedschlag stated that he believes the line and switching station would help the reliability in the area. Mr. Charlie Humble, LES’s legal counsel in this matter, addressed the Board and further explained how the line would add reliability and meet the growing load demand in southwest Lincoln. Executive Director Texel recommended that due to the size of the project and the affidavit submitted to the Board that the Board waive the hearing for this application. Mr. Reida moved to waive the hearing and approve application PRB-3739, as amended. Vice Chairman Lichter seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Siedschlag – yes, Vice Chairman Lichter – yes, Mr. Haase – yes, Mr. Morehouse – absent, and Mr. Reida – yes. The motion carried 4 – 0.
The next item on the agenda was application PRB-3740-G. This is an application submitted by Grand Prairie Wind, LLC. It was filed on October 22, 2013. This is an application for a 400 megawatt wind farm northeast of the City of O’Neill, in Holt County, Nebraska. This matter has been set for hearing to begin at 9:30 a.m. The Board tabled this item until after the hearing and continued with its remaining agenda items.
Next, the executive director stated that a copy of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) consultant’s monthly activities update was in the Board notebooks, and had been provided to the Board members prior to the meeting. Chairman Siedschlag pointed out that his term office was expiring at the end of this year, and spoke about the need for another Board member to make the transition to take on his duties as the PRB’s representative at the SPP Regional State Committee meetings. Chairman Siedschlag noted he is not eligible for reappointment after his term due to the statutory two-term limit. Executive Director Texel invited any utilities who may know of a potential candidate to have them contact the Governor’s office. Chairman Siedschlag is currently the Board’s designated engineer member. Vice Chairman Lichter is also an engineer, and currently holds the lay member position. Mr. Reida is also an engineer, but he is currently the Board’s designated attorney member. It is the Board’s understanding from previous appointments that since the Board has an engineer on the Board the Governor could appoint a layperson to replace Chairman Siedschlag and redesignate Mr. Lichter as the Board’s engineer member. The only other criteria for the appointment is that the person cannot be a Republican. The statute controlling PRB appointments prohibits the Governor from appointing a member of his own political party if three members are already a member of his party. Three PRB members are registered Republicans.
The executive director then stated that one other significant item to note about SPP activities is that the Western Area Power Administration has published its formal Notice in the Federal Register announcing that it intends to pursue membership in the SPP.
The executive director then addressed rescheduling the Board’s December meeting date. The Board’s meeting is scheduled for December 13. The Omaha Public Power District has filed a Petition to Amend its Charter. Pursuant to statutory changes enacted in the 2013 legislative session, OPPD is asking to create individual election subdivisions for its metropolitan subdivision, instead of electing the metropolitan directors on an at-large basis as is the case under the District’s current charter. OPPD informed the Board that the Secretary of State’s office notified OPPD that the deadline to certify election subdivisions is December 12, the day before the Board’s next meeting. OPPD asked if the Board would consider moving its December meeting date prior to December 12 to allow certification of the new election subdivisions. Executive Director Texel said he had e-mailed the Board earlier that week to see if the Board members were willing to reschedule the meeting, and to ensure that a quorum was available. All five members indicated support to reschedule the meeting and that they were available.
Executive Director Texel announced that the December meeting date was rescheduled from December 13 to December 6, 2013. The meeting will be in the Liquor Control Hearing room, 5th floor, State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska. The remaining meetings for the 2014 calendar year are scheduled for the second Friday of each month. The next three meetings after December will therefore be on January 10, February 14, and March 14, 2014.
The Board members recessed the meeting at 9:48 a.m. in order to conduct the hearing on application PRB-3740-G. The Board reconvened its public meeting at 1:44 p.m. All members that were present prior to the recess were again present.
Executive Director Texel explained that during the recess the Board conducted an evidentiary hearing and accepted evidence concerning application PRB-3740-G. This is an application filed Grand Prairie Wind, LLC to construct a 400 megawatt wind turbine electric generation facility. The application was filed pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. section 70-1014. The Board understands the criteria that needs to be met in order to approve this application and deliberated prior to reconvening its public meeting. The executive director went through some of the background information that was discussed during the hearing. The Board consulted with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission pursuant to the requirement in section 37-807(3). In a letter dated November 7, 2013, the Commission determined that the project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” state-listed threatened or endangered species. The Commission did not object to the PRB approving the application.
The Board sent written Notice of the filing and opportunity to intervene via certified mail to potentially interested power suppliers in the general area. Public notice was published in the Spencer Advocate and the Holt County Independent newspapers on October 31, 2013. The Board received Petitions for Intervention from OPPD and NPPD, both of which were granted. The executive director explained that if the Board votes on the application today the vote would constitute a preliminary, but binding ruling. The parties would know what the Board’s decision is, but the final ruling will be set out in a written order that will include findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order. The Board commonly votes on applications at the portion of the public meeting following a hearing when the hearing does not involve adverse parties. This is done for purposes of convenience, providing the applicant with an immediate answer. This allows the applicant to know if it can move forward on a project and commence construction, without having to wait an additional four to six weeks for the issuance of the written order. Chairman Siedschlag stated that the Board believes the project is based on sound economics, the applicant has shown the public convenience and necessity, and non-duplication of resources. He believes it meets the statutory criteria, and the Board is comfortable with going forward and considering this application today. Mr. Reida stated that in light of the statutory requirements the Board is comfortable in its decision. OPPD is protecting its ratepayers and there is minimal risk to OPPD and its customers. He stated that in his opinion the application will serve the public convenience and necessity, that the applicant can most economically and feasibly provide the electric service resulting from the proposed project, and that it will not involve the unnecessary duplication of facilities or operations. Vice Chairman Lichter moved to approve application PRB-3740-G. Mr. Reida seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Siedschlag – yes, Vice Chairman Lichter – yes, Mr. Haase – yes, Mr. Morehouse – absent, and Mr. Reida – yes. The motion carried 4 – 0.
Chairman Siedschlag thanked the parties for their presentation on the project and wished them luck. Vice Chairman Lichter pointed out that the applicant has a great deal of work to get done by the end of the year in order to qualify for the federal production tax credit. The Board members stated that they were looking forward to seeing this project move forward.
Vice Chairman Lichter moved to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Haase seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Siedschlag – yes, Vice Chairman Lichter – yes, Mr. Haase – yes, Mr. Morehouse – absent, and Mr. Reida – yes. The motion carried 4 – 0. The meeting was adjourned at 1:50 p.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel