Tuesday, December 28, 2010
More than $2 billion worth of transmission lines are planned throughout Oregon in the next decade, according to the state’s major utilities - PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric and Idaho Power. They say their systems cannot handle increased demand and new wind, geothermal and biomass projects coming online.
After Oregon’s hydropower dams were constructed in the 1930s, aluminum smelters looked to tap into cheap power along the Columbia River. That led to construction of the transmission network the state uses today, according to Mike Mikolaitis, director of transmission projects for Portland General Electric. Today, however, those lines are increasingly congested.
“Transmission lines are like the freeway of our electrical system,” Mikolaitis said. “At rush hour, there’s a limit to what can go on the freeway without causing a backup. Our electrical transmission system in Oregon is congested and inadequate to deliver most of the renewable energy being built in the eastern part of the state.”
PGE’s proposed solution is Cascade Crossing, a 500-kilovolt, 187-mile-long transmission line that would cut across a national forest, tribal lands and private parcels between Boardman and Salem. The $823 million project is the largest of its kind to be proposed in the last 30 years, according to Deb Schallert, head of permitting for Cascade Crossing.
“In my lifetime, I’ve never permitted a major transmission line like this,” Schallert said. “Public-land stakeholders want to know what habitat impacts are at stake. Private landowners want to know why we need to use land they own. The Warm Springs Tribe is a sovereign nation and has its own process to comment on the route. The challenge we’ve faced consistently is educating people about why we need new transmission.”
PGE predicts a 45 percent increase in electricity demand over the next 20 years, according to its Integrated Resource Plan. PacifiCorp says transmission line development over the next 20 to 25 years is essential for grid reliability to be maintained. Since 2007, PacifiCorp has planned its own major transmission project, Energy Gateway, a $6 billion, 2,000-mile-long transmission line project that will snake through Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon.
John Cupparo, PacifiCorp’s vice president of transmission, said for the last three years he has stayed up late at night thinking about how to implement such a gigantic project. Energy Gateway will pass through federal lands, requiring years of studies of cultural and environmental issues along the proposed route. The timing of those federal processes, Cupparo said, will determine whether the project is delivered on time and within the budget.
“There are so many different stakeholders and differing perspectives on what the right answer is,” Cupparo said. “These are not cheap projects; we just brought in the first segment of Energy Gateway for $830 million. As the Bureau of Land Management and others work through all of the environmental, cultural and other issues, it takes time. And we need certainty that we can get the capacity installed on time.”
The Bonneville Power Administration has approximately $900 million of transmission line projects in environmental review, according to company spokesman Doug Johnson, mostly because of transmission service requests for wind projects in Oregon and Washington. The BPA, a federal entity, can condemn property or use eminent domain, but the agency has been trying to avoid doing so, Johnson said.
“We only use eminent domain as a last resort,” Johnson said. “You want to meet electrical needs, but you also need to respond to concerns from communities along the way. That’s why public process is so important.”
Mikolaitis added that not building transmission lines is not an option. As more entities connect to Oregon’s grid, the possibility of popping circuits becomes more likely.
“We’ve already seen reliability issues with our transmission during wind and ice storms,” Mikolaitis said. “You have to remember: The entire western U.S. shares a grid. If there’s a problem on the transmission level in Oregon, it could result in a blackout over a number of states. There’s a reason utilities are doing this collectively, not just individually.”
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Earlier this month, staff of the Department of Environmental Quality recommended approving the plan.
The ruling repeals the 2009 BART rules for Boardman, and implements new control requirements that are consistent with the regional haze rules (see "Oregon DEQ Staff Recommends Boardman 2020 Plan," Dec. 7, 2010).
PGE will now proceed with acquisition and installation of the necessary controls, beginning with low-NOx burners and mercury controls in July 2011.
The new controls are expected to reduce NOx emissions by about 50 percent and permitted levels of SO2 emissions by 75 percent. A separate set of rules also requires the addition of controls to reduce the plant's mercury emissions by 90 percent. All coal-related emissions from the Boardman facility will be reduced to zero with the end of coal-fired operations in 2020.
The combined capital cost of the required controls is currently estimated at about $60 million.
PGE owns 65 percent of the Boardman plant. Co-owners include Bank of America Leasing LLC, with 15 percent; Idaho Power, with 10 percent; and Power Resources Cooperative, with 10 percent.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Salazar, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Announce Completion of Sage-Grouse Habitat Map in the West
The map identifies important range-wide focal areas having high density occurrences of greater sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird that inhabits much of the West. These focal areas were determined by estimating the male’s attendance on leks, the communal breeding grounds of the bird. The BLM will work with the state fish and wildlife agencies to further refine the map by incorporating more specific state-level data.
“This map and initiative will help advance our collaborative efforts with states and stakeholders to develop smart policy to enhance the sustainability of our sage-grouse populations,” Salazar said. “The final map will give Interior a strong foundation to identify land uses that do not compromise areas that are so critical to the greater sage-grouse.”
“As the federal land manager of more sage-grouse habitat than any other entity, the BLM takes very seriously our commitment to working with others to manage America’s natural resources,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “This mapping effort will help other federal and state agencies and the BLM as it carries out its multiple-use mandate. We are confident that all activities can be managed to be compatible with conservation of the sage-grouse and its habitat.”
Abbey provided an overview of the mapping effort last March, when Secretary Salazar announced the Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that the greater sage-grouse warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that listing the species at this time is precluded by the need to address higher priority species first.
The Fish and Wildlife Service provided technical expertise in the development of the map. The NRCS will utilize the map in implementing their Sage-Grouse Initiative. WAFWA agencies are also ready to begin using the valuable management tool.
“We are pleased with this collaborative, state/federal effort, and look forward to continuing the important work of conserving this iconic species of the American West,” said Ken Mayer, Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the WAFWA lead for sage-grouse conservation.
"USDA is honored to collaborate with state and federal partners in targeting NRCS's new Sage-Grouse Initiative to deliver the right conservation practices in the right places," said NRCS Chief Dave White. "New breeding density maps are critical to SGI's targeted approach to ensure the largest biological return on our conservation investment."
“The greater sage-grouse has historically inhabited millions of acres in the West, making it imperative that we work across political and administrative boundaries at a landscape scale to protect and restore sagebrush habitat,” said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould. “This map provides vital information that will enable us to work together to prevent further habitat fragmentation and undertake other conservation work to ensure the species’ long term survival.”
Greater sage-grouse are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. They currently occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range.
View the sage-grouse breeding bird density map at http://blm.gov/kb5c
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
How would you like to pay higher utility bills to finance expensive electricity from solar and wind power, which you would never use? That's the issue now before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and it deserves more public and political scrutiny before it becomes a reality.
FERC has a draft rule that could effectively socialize the costs of paying for multi-billion dollar transmission lines to connect remote wind and solar projects to the nation's electric power grid. If FERC rules in favor of Big Wind and Big Solar, the new policy would add billions of dollars onto the utility . . .
Saturday, October 23, 2010
By JAYSON JACOBY Baker City Herald
Idaho Power Company is mailing letters to more than 300 people who own land along the proposed route for a major tranmission line, asking for permission to enter their property to do surveys.
The first batch of letters, including 64 to Baker County property owners, went out earlier this month.
All letters should be mailed by Nov. 1, said Keith Georgeson, manager for Idaho Power’s Boardman-to-Hemingway project.
Idaho Power wants to build a 500-kilovolt line between Boardman, Ore., and Hemingway, Idaho, possibly starting in 2013.
The Boise company’s preferred route would bisect Baker County, running near Huntington and Durkee and passing about one mile east of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
That route, and in particular its proximity to the Interpretive Center, has angered some local residents.
Idaho Power would prefer to put the line about a mile farther east, but that might not be possible due to the need to protect sage grouse breeding areas, said Michael Ybarguen, a community relations specialist for the company.
The letters mailed this month ask property owners to sign a form allowing Idaho Power employees or contractors to enter the owner’s property.
The company’s goal is to design the best route for the transmission line.
The proposed corridor is about 4,000 feet wide — three-quarters of a mile.
But the easement Idaho Power needs to accommodate the line will be just 250 feet wide.
By surveying the entire corridor, the company hopes to learn about possible conflicts — a center-pivot irrigation system, for instance — that can be avoided when the final 250-foot easement is plotted, Georgeson said.
He emphasized that landowners who allow Idaho Power workers to enter their property are not as a result committed to selling the company a permanent easement for the transmission line.
The easement process is separate.
Also, the line, if built, will not cross every parcel for which the company mailed a letter, Georgeson said.
Some landowners who receive a letter don’t own property within the proposed corridor; rather, Idaho Power would need an easement across their property to access the corridor for construction and maintenance, he said.
Georgeson said Idaho Power officials understand that not every landowner who receives a letter will sign the consent form.
The company needs a sufficiently large sample size, though, to satisfy the requirements of the BLM, Forest Service and Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council.
Georgeson said one landowner who received a letter replied, in essence, that he wouldn’t sign the consent form because he didn’t intend to negotiate with the company for a permanent easement.
Nonetheless, Ybarguen contends that cooperation between landowners and the company benefits both parties.
He said Idaho Power officials want to know early in the process what sorts of obstacles it faces.
And because the company actually needs just 250 feet of the 4,000-foot study corridor, it has considerable flexibility in deciding where the towers (which would range in height from 110 feet to 190 feet) and the lines are built, he said.
“We would much rather work with people now than have a fight later,” Ybarguen said.
Idaho Power does have the legal authority to use eminent domain, also known as condemnation, to force landowners to sell easements to the company.
However, Ybarguen said Idaho Power hasn’t exercised its eminent domain authority for at least 20 years.
That is an “option of last resort,” said Lynette Berriochoa, an information specialist for the Boardman-to-Hemingway project.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
VALE — While not opposed to the proposed Idaho Power 500-kilovolt transmission line, some residents in the Brogan area are seeking support to have the route of the line moved a little farther away from the community, and a spokesman for those residents appeared before the Malheur County Court, Wednesday, to request its support.
Rick Simmons, Brogan, told the court he represented property owners in Brogan and others around the community who would like to see the transmission line routed about two miles farther west so it, and the towers supporting it, would be in the background. As proposed, Simmons estimated the line would come within about a mile of Brogan and residents would like it at least three miles away. A petition has been drawn up, and Simmons is still obtaining signatures, he said.
The petition says residents did not think one mile was far enough away and were concerned about wind noise through the high tension lines and girders, a “greatly increased security risk” for the small community and because the view from Brogan would be overpowered by the tall towers situated so close.
“Our proposed solution is for Idaho Power to agree to give the Brogan community a three-mile exclusion zone for high tension power lines now and in the future. Build the power line three miles out from Brogan in all directions,” the petition said.
“We understand the need (for the line),” Simmons said, adding residents understand the decision to move the route out their way. “The towers are much too close to where they live. We’re asking for a visual impact study.”
Because the proposed routing near their community did not come about until earlier this year, Simmons said the community was coming late into the siting process but did get their comments into the Oregon Energy Facility Citing Council and the Bureau of Land Management before Monday’s deadline. Simmons, though, said he wanted the court’s backing of the request. The Energy Facility Citing Council is handling the state review and public comment process on Idaho Power’s proposal, and the BLM is conducting the environmental review process for the portions of the route on public land.
Jon Beal, county planner, noted the route of the transmission line between Boardman and southwest Idaho has not been finalized, and there will be additional opportunities for public comment. The court did not make a decision.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Three Pacific Northwest states have adopted renewable portfolio standards, but it may be that our neighbor to the south, California, will end up having the biggest impact on the region. California’s renewable energy policies are some of the most aggressive in the nation, and the state has worked for many years to develop its own renewable resources. It’s now reached the point where California utilities have to look outside the state to satisfy their renewable portfolio goals.
Renewable energy credits (RECs) enable utilities to purchase the environmental benefits of renewable energy wherever it’s generated. Most of California’s utilities would like to use RECs as much as possible because it expands their market and could also eliminate some of the transmission costs to deliver the power from outside the state.
“We’re already seeing ‘the California effect,’” says Jeff King, senior resource analyst at the Council. “Roughly 50 percent of the wind power that was developed in 2008 and 2009 in the Northwest was either owned by California utilities or is contracted to them, and credits in excess of Northwest needs are being sold to California utilities from projects owned by, or contracted to, Northwest utilities.”
It’s a trend that’s expected to continue into the future, says King, where we’ll see California taking an increasing proportion of the Northwest’s renewable resource generation to meet it’s own RPS targets. But what happens to the electricity if it doesn’t go with the REC? There’s concern that it could end up in the Northwest power market, depressing power prices.
“In almost every one of these issues,” says King, “there’s a positive side and a negative side.” Low power prices help Northwest utilities that need to purchase energy, but the same low prices reduces revenue for utilities with a good supply of resources to sell.
An increase in renewable energy development in the region is a good thing from the perspective of renewable resource developers, and for landowners who lease their land to wind power developers. It also benefits counties, usually in rural areas where a lot of wind farms are sited, by expanding their property tax base and increasing their property tax revenue.
On the other hand, notes King, we’re already seeing controversies arise from the aesthetic and environmental impacts from expanded resource and transmission development in the region.
For the consumer, a lot will depend on the business practices and philosophy of the consumer’s utility. Northwest utilities that are fairly aggressive in developing renewables on their own and selling RECs to California are able to generate revenue that may reduce electricity costs. It also puts them in a good position when it comes time to meet their own targets. For utilities that wait until they have to purchase renewable energy, they may find themselves in a situation where competition from California for those resources has driven up prices. . .
Monday, August 16, 2010
Idaho Power Co. has filed its integrated resource plan (IRP) with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The company plans to add about 3,000 MW of capacity over the next 20 years to meet anticipated load growth, according to the IRP.
The plan also spells out how the company plans to reduce summer peak load by 323 MW by 2012, due largely to demand-reduction programs aimed at commercial, industrial and irrigation customers. Energy efficiency programs are forecast to reduce load by 127 average MW by 2029, a 53% increase over measures included in Idaho Power's 2006 IRP.
Idaho Power's southern Idaho and eastern Oregon territory serves about 486,000 customers, but those numbers are expected to increase to 680,000 at the end of the 20-year plan in 2029. Idaho Power anticipates that summertime peak-load hours will increase by 53 MW over the next 20 years and average load will increase by 13 MW during the same time frame.
To accommodate the load growth over the next 10 years, Idaho Power continues to rely on expanding its demand-reduction programs. It also plans to add 540 MW of new generation, including the 300 MW Langley Gulch natural-gas plant, which is now under construction near New Plymouth.
The company also plans to add 150 MW of wind generation and 40 MW of geothermal generation. Completion of a proposed major 500-kv transmission line from the Boardman Substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway Substation near Melba will make available another 425 MW of capacity to Idaho Power's customers. An upgrade of the Shoshone Falls hydroelectric facility will make another 20 MW available by 2015.
Looking beyond 10 years, the company plans another 1,400 MW of generation from natural gas plants and 500 MW from wind. The additional wind assumes that the Gateway West Transmission Project, a joint transmission project proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power that would pass through southern Wyoming and southern Idaho, will be completed.
SOURCE: Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The proposed transmission would stretch 299.8 miles from a sub station near Boardman to the newly constructed Hemingway substation south of the Snake River, near Melba. Idaho Power says the new line is needed to increase its capacity. Two more joint scoping meetings will follow in Boardman today and Burns on Thursday.
An earlier process was halted after Idaho Power withdrew its initial proposed routing of the line, facing stiff opposition from residents in Idaho and Oregon because it would have taken the line through an abundance of farmland.
Working with project advisory teams, Idaho Power came up with a new route and because it is a new proposal, a new process leading to a decision was required by both agencies. The new route in Idaho and Malheur County skirts most of the farmland, staying mainly on public land.
In Malheur County, the line would cross about 23 miles of private land and about 46 miles of BLM land, crossing a total of about 70 miles through the county.
According to Sue Oliver, energy facility analyst for DOE, Idaho Power will be applying for site certification with the review process conducted by Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council. . .
While the analysis for EIS will include the private land, as well as public land, the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and decision will only be on public land, John Styduhar, federal project manager, said. In their review following the scoping, federal agencies will develop a range of alternatives for analysis, Styduhar said. Those alternatives could include structure design or some mitigation of impacts which can’t be avoided. . .
The deadline for sending comments to both agencies is Sept. 27 and can be made via the comment sites on the project Web page, e-mail, regular mail or fax.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The draftEISwas originally scheduled to be released in the summer of 2010.BLMdelayed release of the document in order to address comments received during the internal administrative review process as well as to clarify management objectives related to sage grouse, visual and other public resources.
Walt George, BLMProject Manager, stated “We continue to work to ensure that the draftEISaddresses the key issues throughout the project area and want to ensure adequate time to prepare this important document.” George continued, “Once the draftEISis released, theBLMwill host a 90-day comment period and public hearings to formally gather comments. The BLM encourages the public’s continued participation in this project.”
This project is jointly proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, and would result in construction of nearly 1,150 miles of high voltage transmission lines across southern Wyoming and southern Idaho. The project proponents have applied to theBLMandUSFSfor right of way grants to construct, operate and maintain transmission lines from the proposed Windstar substation near Glenrock, Wyoming to the proposed Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho, approximately 20 miles southwest of Boise.
Friday, July 16, 2010
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Blue Mountain Conference Center
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Best Western Sunridge Inn and Conference Center
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Pendleton Convention Center
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Mt. Vernon Community Hall
3:30 - 8 p.m.
American Legion Hall
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Four Rivers Cultural Center
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Port of Morrow Convention Center
3:30 - 8 p.m.
Harney County Community Services Center
During each meeting the state and federal agencies will give presentations about their respective review processes. In addition, Idaho Power has been invited to give a brief presentation about the project. Following the presentations, the agencies will hold a question-and-answer session.
The open house meetings will provide the opportunity for attendees to learn more about the project, review maps, provide written comments and discuss the project with agency staff and consultants, as well as Idaho Power representatives.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
In two weeks, Idaho Power will host a series of Community Advisory Process public meetings throughout the project area. (Note: these meetings are NOT the planned scoping meetings for the BLM-NEPA process, which will be held in Aug-Sept.)
July 13, 2010
4 – 7 p.m.
Brogan Community Event Center
5621 Clark St.
Brogan, OR 97903
July 14, 2010
La Grande, Oregon
4 – 7 p.m.
Blue Mountain Conference Center
404 Twelfth St.
La Grande, OR 97850
July 15, 2010
4 – 7 p.m.
American Legion Hall
126 N. Bruneau Hwy.
Marsing, ID 83639
July 20, 2010
Baker City, Oregon
4 – 7 p.m.
Baker Community Event Center
2600 East St.
Baker City, OR 97814
July 21, 2010
Pilot Rock, Oregon
4 – 7 p.m.
Pilot Rock Community Center
285 NW Cedar Pl.
Pilot Rock, OR 97868
July 22, 2010
4 – 7 p.m.
Port of Morrow Convention Center
2 Marine Dr.
Boardman, OR 97818
Throughout the NEPA process there will be multiple opportunities for you to continue to give input. Idaho Power is committed to working with the communities throughout the NEPA process and will continue to communicate with you and inform you of ways to stay involved.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
"I started reading this [with my wife]," he recalled. "Our eyes got as big as silver dollars."
The letter outlined a proposed 299-mile transmission line that Idaho Power wanted to build from the Hemingway substation near Melba to Boardman, Ore. Findley recalls seeing the proposed route and thinking the line would come close to his farm, which is about 10 miles southwest of Ontario.
"My dad moved here when he was 17 with my grandparents. They were dust bowl victims coming from Colorado," said Findley. "I farm part of the original land."
Putting 12-story power lines over prime land used to raise cattle and grow everything from wheat to sugar beets didn't make sense to him.
"This is where we make our livelihoods," said Findley, "There are health concerns, logistical concerns with working around the lines, and concerns over electro-magnetic fields."
Findley's wife, a retired BLM botanist, had an idea about where to put the 550-kilovolt line and get it off private land and onto public. The trouble was convincing Idaho Power. So the Findleys did what Oregonians have a reputation for. They got organized and formed the nonprofit Stop Idaho Power.
Two hundred people packed the Grange Hall in Ontario for the first town hall meeting organized by the Findleys.
"We only prepared 50 handouts," recalled Findley, chuckling. "We went home after that first meeting and I said, 'Now I know how an arsonist feels.' I think we started something big, and we volunteered to lead it."
The Findleys did start something big. Communities throughout Eastern Oregon united to reroute Idaho Power's Boardman to Hemingway Project--or B2H. This grass-roots activism spread like a wildfire through tweets, blogs and phone calls. Stop signs showed up on private fences declaring private property off limits to Idaho's largest utility. It worked. Last year, Idaho Power halted the application and permitting process for the largest power line the Northwest has seen in 20 years.
Kent McCarthy plans transmission and distribution systems for Idaho Power and he's been involved in the Boardman to Hemingway Project. He said the company believed people living in places like Melba and Baker City, Ore., would be happy to have the line. Such projects have historically meant economic development and the guarantee of reliable energy.
So Idaho Power was surprised with the groundswell of grass-roots activism. "We knew that people would be vocal," said McCarthy. "But they were more vocal and more involved than we thought they would be."
Stop Idaho Power launched a blog detailing the B2H project. E-mails and documents from Idaho Power went up on the site. "Twenty years ago, we would not have been nearly as successful as today," said Findley. "We could instantly keep people informed and get people to write letters through our website."
From the beginning, the group, which sometimes attracted 400 people to its meetings, involved Idaho Power.
"We took Idaho Power company officials on a tour to show them where the land was that they wanted to put the line, and then we showed them where it should go," said Findley.
The goal, he said, wasn't to stop the line but to get it off private land and onto public BLM land in Malheur County. There's less red tape putting power lines on private property. Putting a power line across public land triggers the National Environmental Policy Act, which means lengthy and exhaustive environmental reviews and public involvement.
Findley said Stop Idaho Power took the approach of "let's get a cup of coffee and talk." That tactic didn't work. So the nonprofit collected $20,000 in donations and hired a lawyer.
"We had groups like Stop Idaho Power, Move Idaho Power and Protect Parma and Protect Canyon County," said McCarthy. "They convinced us that there was a lot of opposition and the community needed to be heard better than the scoping process."
That opposition largely came from Eastern Oregon from people angry at the thought of seeing swooping lines on giant towers cutting across wide open valleys like in the Baker City area. People worried the B2H would disrupt irrigation, make prime farmland useless, destroy the scenery and lower employment and tax revenues.
In Malheur County, Stop Idaho Power argued that county planners had purposefully preserved farmland rather than paving the way for development. In group documents, they noted that residents there "should not bear the burden of huge towers because Idaho thinks Malheur County is 'not developed.' Idaho still has much undeveloped and public land to site transmission lines."
Idahoans launched their own effort to reroute the line off farmland. But that level of involvement seemed quiet compared to Oregon's outcry.
Todd Lakey, an attorney and former Canyon County commissioner, is the spokesman for the group Protect Canyon County.
"Our message all along from the beginning has been this is a public utility and a public utility should be located on public land," Lakey said.
People were surprised by the line and felt they didn't have a say, he said. Idahoans, like Oregonians, understand the need for power but they also questioned the benefits the line would have for communities. "It's been more asking that question but recognizing the need to have power infrastructure and locate it appropriately," said Lakey.
McCarthy noticed the differing levels of involvement between the Oregon and Idaho groups, but he said Idahoans did make an impact as well. He speculated that the high level of activism in Oregon arose because the B2H is mainly in Oregon. Findley noted that at least one Idaho group opposed to the B2H got in touch with him to get advice on how to launch a successful campaign against Idaho Power.
Idaho Power responded to this opposition across the Idaho-Oregon border by starting a community advisory process. The utility organized groups from Eastern Oregon down to Southwest Idaho to come up with alternative routes. Last year, these teams, representing three geographic areas, developed and submitted 47 alternatives. From those, the groups, along with Idaho Power, picked three plans.
McCarthy said he values having such public involvement.
"It's been really painful at times, but it's always been good information. We're the engineers, but they're the people who really know the geography and the issues. We need their input so we don't go the wrong direction," he said.
Findley said he's happy with the alternate route through Malheur County, which now puts most of the line on public land. The proposed route also skirts private land in Canyon County. Lakey remains "cautiously optimistic" that it will stay that way.
"Idaho Power has done a good job of listening to the citizens and the political leaders," he said.
Residents in Baker City, though, aren't happy. The original transmission line would have gone over the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and up through the valley. Now the line goes behind the center. Residents argue if the line gets built there, it will destroy a historic view--one that pioneers first saw coming through the valley.
The Boardman to Hemingway project isn't a done deal. Idaho Power must clear a number of hurdles before construction can begin. Oregon's Energy Facility Siting Council is expected to make a decision by mid-August. Meanwhile, Idaho Power has started the process again with the BLM. Ultimately, the company will have to make the case for why the B2H is needed.
Construction could begin in 2013 with the line active two years later.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The new section stretches from the Ben Lomond substation, in Box Elder County, Utah, to the Terminal substation, located near the Salt Lake City International Airport, and is part of the Gateway Central section of the project. The process to energize this section began March 19 and was completed March 30, the company said.
PacifiCorp says the northern section of the segment should be energized by the end of this year. The section will extend an additional 90 miles north to the Populus substation near Downey, Idaho, and would complete the first full segment of the Energy Gateway Transmission Project.
"It has been two decades since any major additions were made to the main transmission grid in the West," said Richard Walje, president of Rocky Mountain Power, in a prepared statement. "When completed, this and other transmission additions will ensure customers in the states we serve have access to electricity at reasonable prices."
In other transmission news, BPA has informed Idaho Power that the agency will not participate in the Boardman to Hemingway transmission project.
BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said that on May 10, the agency gave its "preliminary recommendation that we not participate in the Boardman to Hemingway project."
"Our analysis indicates that financially participating in the Boardman to Hemingway project would cost about three to five times as much a year as continuing the arrangements under which we currently serve our southern Idaho customers," Johnson said via email.
Currently, BPA pays Idaho Power to wheel power through its service area to BPA customers in southern and eastern Idaho and Wyoming.
But BPA is accepting informal customer and stakeholder feedback on the recommendation through the end of this month, Johnson said.
The B2H project, which would run from the Boardman substation near Boardman, Ore., to the Hemingway substation near Melba, Idaho, has drawn the ire of locals who petitioned the Oregon PUC to open a contested case hearing in Idaho Power's integrated resource plan case to determine if the project is needed.
Move Idaho Power and Idaho (?) resident Nancy Peyron asked for the hearing, arguing that Oregon EFSC is required to conduct energy siting proceedings as contested cases, but those cases do not question whether or not a facility is needed.
Move Idaho Power and Ms. Peyron argued that EFSC's facility siting proceedings are contested cases that rely on the OPUC-acknowledged IRP, so the OPUC should hold a contested hearing on whether or not the B2H line is needed.
On May 17, ALJ Sarah Wallace ruled that the OPUC did not have to hold a contested case in the Idaho Power IRP because the commission generally does not address the need for a specific resource, but determines whether or not the utility has proposed a portfolio with the "best combination of cost and risk."
"The Legislature delegated the authority to determine the need for a proposed transmission line to the EFSC, not to this commission," Judge Wallace said in her order. "The Commission would be exceeding its legislatively delegated authority if it attempted to determine whether the EFSC's need standard has been met."
Talk about the challenges facing the wind business, and several issues come to mind, including siting, the debate over a federal renewable electricity standard (RES), and financing a project in the throes of the worst recession in 40 years.
So, where does transmission – as important to wind as any financing or regulatory issue – fit into all of this? The issue tends to be put on the back burner because building transmission – not to mention enacting a federal standard – is so complex and requires the approval of many stakeholders. In fact, analysts and industry officials say that transmission is much more complicated than other issues that wind power faces.
Solving transmission constraints means working with state regulators, independent system operators (ISO), regional transmission operators, utilities and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – almost all of which have different agendas.
“It’s not just one of the main challenges facing the wind industry;’ says Georgina Benedetti, an energy and power systems analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “In my opinion, it’s as serious an issue as the extension of any of the incentives.”
More complicated still is that not everyone in the same group always wants the same thing. Utilities are split between those that want to add capacity and those that do not because they fear lower prices from increased supply, according to Michael Goggin, manager of transmission policy at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Defining the agenda
Furthermore, there is a general consensus that some wind projects, especially in less windy areas, are already being held up because there is not transmission available to take the electricity to market. . .
On the other hand, says Goggin, relying solely on a smart grid will not provide additional capacity to bring wind-generated electricity from places such as Wyoming and North Dakota to market. . .
Cost allocation. This decision may be the biggest obstacle, says Willrich. State regulators are reluctant to pass costs on to ratepayers for transmission that is not solely contained in their jurisdiction. This limits the options for building regional transmission. Meanwhile, public utilities prefer public financing, as opposed to investor-owned utilities, which prefer to build privately.
FERC’s role. Few can agree what FERC can do, let alone what it should do. It is unclear whether existing legislation gives the agency the authority to regulate siting and cost allocation. Legislation in 2005 seemed to give FERC authority to expedite permitting’ but the agency has not yet used its power to override state authority, preferring to wait until state permitting processes play out.
FERC and the courts. Meanwhile, several court cases that have dealt with cost allocation also seem to limit FERC’s authority, depending on appeals and whether what happens in one part of the country is precedent in another part. . .
Regional planning. This issue involves more than encouraging groups of states agreeing to work together to add transmission in their respective regions.. .
Continued regulation or less regulation? Transmission is the last part of the electricity business that is still mostly regulated, and there are those who argue that regulation is hampering transmission construction. . .
A larger view
But the issue looming over all of these uncertainties, say those interviewed for this story, is the lack of suitable U.S. energy policy. . .
“It’s all about the mission statement,” says Krapels. “And, so far, there has not been enough of one to help transmission. Transmission, because it’s so complicated, needs to be part of the broader, more comprehensive package. . . ”
Nevertheless, transmission is a problem that needs to solved – even if it doesn’t seem to get as much attention as it should.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
BPA had been looking at joining Idaho Power and perhaps Pacificorp in the line that will connect the Idaho utility near Melba with BPA-control federal hydropower near the Columbia River and wind energy resources in the Columbia Gorge. The line also would allow Idaho Power to sell its power in the winter to BPA, which is peaking at that time of the year. Idaho Power peaks in the summer during the height of the irrigation season.
But BPA decided to stick with its current deal, paying Idaho Power to “wheel” its power through its service area to electrical coops and the Idaho Falls city electrical system it serves in southern and eastern Idaho and Wyoming.
The decision had nothing to do with the controversy that has erupted in Oregon over the proposed power line, BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said.
BPA has not completely ruled out joining in and is asking its coop and utility customers for comments on its decision.
Meanwhile, Idaho Power has moved its proposed route away from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center near Baker in response to concerns raised by residents there. But the new route still can be seen from the center and residents urged Idaho Power to consider another route that runs through a sage grouse lek area, where the birds mate, which state officials will not approve.
In other transmission news, Rocky Mountain Power energized its first portion of the Gateway transmission line project that it is building across Idaho. The first leg is in Utah according to the Idaho State Journal.
Monday, May 17, 2010
"This important decision sets the stage for the final step for approval of a large advanced nuclear power plant and also gives a strong indication of support by county leaders resulting in a win-win for AEHI stakeholders including the many benefits to the county, state and region for low-cost, clean, reliable power, not to mention rewarding our investors for their support," AEHI CEO Don Gillispie said.
The change creates a footprint for industrial uses in an area once designated for the sole purpose of agriculture. More specifically, the wording will allow for an industrial complex on a 5,000-acre parcel near Big Willow Road and Stone Quarry Road, just a few miles from New Plymouth, as long as that industrial purpose involves a nuclear power plant.
"This vote affirms the will of the majority of residents of Payette County who have told us and the commissioners they want a nuclear power plant in their community. They want the jobs and the financial stability for the towns in which they live - something our plant can and will create," Gillispie said.
Idaho Downwinders Director Tona Henderson, of Emmett, is concerned on two fronts:
"What will they do with the waste from the nuclear plant? There are 103 nuclear plants in operation (in America) right now," Henderson said. Most of these locations have been storing the waste on-site, some for as many as 30 years. There are reports that some containers have begun to leak, Henderson said. "I'm concerned the waste from the Payette site would be stored on site."
Henderson's second concern has to do with the geography of the area. About 40 years ago, the Idaho Geological Survey did a study of oil and gas reserves in southwest Idaho, according to a book Henderson has read.
Idaho Power announced last month that its preferred route will travel about a mile east of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Earlier reports set the distance at a half-mile from the interpretive center.
Still, members of the Baker County group Move Idaho Power and other residents of Baker and Union counties told company officials they are not happy with the plan.
“You want to pass right through, pick up all you can that’s worth money and drive on down the road,” she said. We’re not happy about that.”
The Baker County session was one of a series of Project Advisory Team meetings scheduled by Idaho Power throughout the region to present the proposed route and to outline future steps in the process. The company next will submit its plan to the Bureau of Land Management to begin the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
The advisory groups were established last spring after Idaho Power took its original plan, which was to build the line west of the interpretive center and into the view of Baker Valley, off the table because of community opposition. At that time, Idaho Power agreed to start fresh with Boardman and Hemingway as the only two points on the siting map.
During the past year, the company considered about 450 comments from members of the advisory groups in making its routing decision, Kent McCarthy, Idaho Power Co.’s community advisory process leader, told the Baker County audience.
The route was moved to accommodate Baker County concerns about its proximity to the interpretive center and its placement to the west of the center, McCarthy said. The newly proposed route crosses Highway 86 about a third of a mile east of the center’s entryway and angles north to within about a mile of the center, McCarthy said.
The company is required by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to maintain a two-mile buffer around identified sage grouse leks, he said. That prevents Idaho Power from moving the transmission line farther from the center.
“As of January, ODFW reclassified an old sage grouse lek and made it impossible,” McCarthy said. “We’d love to go another three miles.”
Timm told McCarthy to try harder to persuade ODFW of the need to move the proposed route.
“You argue with us and put it where we don’t want it,” she said. “Why don’t you argue with them for a while.”
Timm also suggested perhaps county residents could oppose Idaho Power Co.’s relicensing application for its operations on the Hells Canyon dams when it is next up for renewal if the company refuses to compromise further on the proposed route.
“There’s a thousand other places you could probably go — pick one,” Timm told the company representatives to the applause of many in the audience.
“And on public land,” came a shout from the crowd.
Jim Eidson agreed with Peyron and Timm about the company’s apparent lack of regard for input it has received from Baker County residents over the past year.
“We are pretty much asking you not to bring it to Baker County,” Eidson said. “It looks like this is the meeting to tell us what you’ve decided to do. You could have saved us 10 to 15 meetings by telling us a long time ago.”
David Angell, Idaho Power’s manager of delivery planning, reminded the audience that Idaho Power has no choice but to comply with environmental restrictions.
“It doesn’t mean that we stop there,” he said. “What we can do is work going forward to adjust the route to getting as close as we can to something doable. Sage grouse leks and other habitat ... those are things we would have to work with the agencies on.”
And Idaho Power will meet with every landowner affected by the proposal, before any construction begins, McCarthy told the crowd. Idaho Power will seek a 250-foot right of way to property crossed by the transmission line and proposes a lease of a minimum of 40 years and possibly twice that with property owners, Angell said.
Baker County Commission Chair Fred Warner Jr. said during Wednesday’s meeting that the county would receive additional property taxes of about $600,000 from the Idaho Power project.
In an interview Thursday, Warner said about $250,000 to $260,000 would go to the county budget and the remainder would be divided among the county’s special districts for services such as fire protection and libraries, he said.
Warner said he hopes the county can persuade ODFW to allow Idaho Power to move the line farther from the Interpretive Center.
“It’s too close,” Warner said. “From three miles it could be visible, but not very visible.”
Warner said he hopes to employ several strategies to achieve the best outcome for Baker County and its residents.
“Can it be done? I don’t know. But we’re sure gonna try,” he said.
Warner said he also hopes to ensure that Idaho Power Co. makes annual lease payments to landowners whose property is affected rather than a lump-sum payment. He has proposed that the company hire an ombudsman to work for Baker County to represent the landowners in lease negotiations.
“I don’t particularly want (the transmission line) in Baker County,” he said. “But our goal is the least impact on the viewshed and the people it affects.
“We’re just trying to make the best of what’s probably not a very good situation,” he said.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
As part of my education about high voltage power lines, I have watched a couple of Webcasts of hearings and panel discussions at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy.
I have watched these discussions, and I’ve heard lots of talk about the environment, green this and green that, “renewables” (one of those ugly nouns stolen from an adjective) and lots of other Washington jargon. In all of these discussions, I have not once heard anyone talk about the land. Everyone talks about transmission lines as though they were just wires. They refer to coal as just another fuel without any mention of where that coal comes from or what it really costs to mine it.
I live on a farm in Calhoun County, West Virginia. When I talk with my neighbors about deer hunting, building fence or hauling hay, they never refer to my land or my property, they say, “Those deer ran through you.” Those of you who live in a city or suburbs may not understand the world view that this way of thinking reflects. It is, however, very real where I live.
We see our land as part of “us.” This is not some kind of modern “eco-awareness.” It is a cultural view of the world that connects back through time to the peasant cultures of Europe and the culture of people native to North America. Those cultures still resonate strongly in rural West Virginia, as they do in other parts of our country.
What does this have to do with power lines?
The PATH power line will take more than 6000 acres of West Virginia land out of productive use by living, breathing West Virginia families.
Now think of the people who own, live on and work that land. Each of those families have lived with that land, some for all their lives. Living with a piece of land is a privilege. It is a relationship, just like a relationship with a friend or someone in your family.
Living with a piece of land means that you shape that piece of land to meet the needs of your family and perhaps to make a little money. You build fence, perhaps some buildings, maybe a pond. You build and restore your soil with manures, compost, fertilizer and lime. You raise a garden and do a little hunting or trapping. You manage your own animals and their pasture.
Much of your life’s work and much of your play grows out of this land. It becomes a part of you. As you put more of your energy into the land and it gives back food, your body literally becomes part of the land and the land becomes a part of you.
Living with a piece of land also involves lots of compromises. You make mistakes. Sometimes you do damage. Because our farms are small, and none of us has lots of money, the damage that any of us can do to our land is pretty small. It can almost always be fixed given a little work and time to heal. We know the scale of our compromises, and we take responsibility for them every day.
A 138 KV power line crosses my holler. It is 5 lines suspended from 80-foot wooden towers. The right of way takes up less than 100 feet and the land owner who originally gave Allegheny Power the right of way had the wisdom to ban herbicide spraying on this section of the line.
This power line is big, but it is small enough for us to live with. It is a compromise we all accept. This line runs from a West Virginia power plant to Spencer, the neighboring county’s county seat, from which our own power comes. We know that we and our fellow Calhoun Countians benefit from this line, so we live with it.
I didn’t hear anyone in Washington at these national energy conferences talking about compromise. Those of us who live with the land understand compromise, because we do that all the time on our farms. All I heard was sneering talk about how land owners were in the way of progress and something called “the national interest.”
For the folks at FERC and DOE, money should be enough. Pay them for their rights of way, and they should shut up and go away. And live with power companies controlling a large strip of land right through the middle of their farms. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.
If you want to come across me with your big power lines, you have to start by talking about the land. If you don’t understand that, you’re in for a fight.
Friday, April 30, 2010
One more change was made to the proposed route endorsed at the previous team meeting — a swing to the east after the line would go west of Brogan, to bring it closer to Huntington for the protection of a sage grouse breeding habitat.
The community advisory process has been ongoing since last year, when Idaho Power faced stiff opposition in Malheur County and other counties, in Oregon and Idaho, for its initial proposed routes.
Malheur County residents primarily opposed the route over prime farming areas in the Nyssa and Adrian areas, and between Ontario and Vale, asking Idaho Power to move the line away from exclusive farm use land. In its review of proposed routes, Idaho Power officials concluded it could not get state approval for siting the line over exclusive farm use ground.
As reported, the proposed line skirts most of the farm land in Owyhee County in Idaho and Malheur County in Oregon, following the existing Pacific Power and Light line west of Owyhee Reservoir. The line cuts north in the vicinity of Vines Hill and swings just west of Brogan before going into Baker County.
In its decision-making process the BLM may offer alternatives to what the Idaho Power Co. has proposed.
“It is not just yes or no,” McCarthy said.
However, with the state EFSC process, alternatives are not offered, he said.
“They can only make a decision on the proposed route,” McCarthy said.
A new route would require a new process, he said.
Additionally, local residents who have been involved in the siting process are encouraged to continue their participation, because there are still opportunities to offer alternatives to the proposed route or for agencies to disapprove of the proposed route.
He warned that it is important that people follow all the way through, because if the state contests the case hearing, held before the Oregon Department of Energy, and makes the final decision, people wanting to testify must have made comment on the draft. None of the official public hearings are expected until later this summer or fall.
“We’re trying to line the process up,” McCarthy said, so there will be joint meeting and hearings.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
By Brandi Stromberg 4/27/2010
PAYETTE — The Payette County Commissioners approved a comprehensive plan map amendment Monday morning for Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., allowing the company to pursue the construction of a proposed nuclear power-generating plant near Big Willow and Stone Quarry Road in rural Payette County.
“Decisions like these are ones that weigh on our minds for weeks, as I am sure it has for everyone else,” Commissioner Larry Church said. “I think we did a pretty good job on the Comp plan, but some thought we needed textual changes in it.”
Church, along with commissioners Marc Shigeta and Rudy Endrikat, approved the text changes to the county’s Comprehensive plan. Church continued with the decision about the Comprehensive plan amendment for the proposed nuclear plant, saying this was a tough decision for the commission.
“This was supposed to be a land-use issue, we thought about it all the time. This isn’t specifically about the business, although it’s been difficult to get out of our heads,” Church said. “We had to ask ourselves some questions, is this the best place for this industry, is this good for the county, is this going to be the proper and adequate use of the land?”
Church continued, saying the plant was proposed to be in the middle of, basically, nowhere in the dry hills, which is ideal for this kind of plant.
“The negative affects, can and will be fixed,” Church said. “The positive affects are it’s in a very secluded area that is large enough for this type of industry.”
. . . The commissioners unanimously approved the comprehensive plan amendment for the nuclear power plant, the next step will be for the county to consider a rezone, which will be brought to commissioners by the company.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Now the agency is ready to provide more certainty and send the right signals to those who would build transmission and increase nontraditional or "demand-side" resources, including flywheel and battery storage. The agency aims to voluntarily reduce power consumption using demand response, Wellinghoff said. . .
Wellinghoff said he has ordered FERC staff to draft a proposed rule soon on transmission funding formulas known as cost allocation. . .
"We ought to look at benefits to the entities that the costs are spread to," he said. "We should not spread costs to someone that there is absolutely no benefits to."
FERC already proposed a rule about making demand-side resources equal in market value to traditional power supply, and Wellinghoff said he is hoping to examine the pricing
structure for other non-traditional supply soon.
While FERC has "wide authority" on cost allocation issues, he said it would be easier to defend that authority in court if provisions that explicitly provide it in a bill passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last June were enacted.
Along with cost allocation, the Senate energy bill provides FERC with expanded authority for transmission planning and siting.
But there are questions about whether that bill will pass this year. It's embroiled with a larger, election-year debate on a sweeping Senate climate bill.
Given that, Wellinghoff said his legislative priority is to urge Congress to enact a provision giving FERC "backstop" authority to site transmission and pass a bill to give FERC emergency authority in case of a cyber attack. . .
Opposition from states, utilities
There is significant pushback from states and utilities on the Senate bill's proposed FERC authority. They cite concerns about paying for long power lines bringing Midwestern renewable energy to the East Coast and pre-empting regional planning efforts. . .
As FERC, Congress and the states work out these problems, a transmission problem looms over who will build transmission lines -- traditional utilities, companies that originally proposed the lines, or third parties? -- and how such matters will be decided, Wellinghoff said. . .