NEBRASKA POWER REVIEW BOARD
Minutes of the 821st Meeting
July 12, 2021
The 821st meeting of the Nebraska Power Review Board (“the Board” or “PRB”) was held in the First Floor Hearing Room, Nebraska State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska. The roll was called and present were Chairman Reida, Vice Chairman Hutchison, Mr. Grennan, and Mr. Moen. Ms. Loutzenhiser’s work schedule created a conflict that would not allow her to travel to Lincoln. Executive Director Texel explained that although Ms. Loutzenhiser may watch the meeting on Webex, she will not participate in any discussion nor vote on any matter before the Board. Due to this, the meeting will not constitute a videoconference meeting. Executive Director Texel stated that legislative bill 83 had been signed by the Governor. Executive Director Texel stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on July 2, 2021. The Board also made the meeting available to the public through Webex. The Webex log-in information was available on the Board’s website and was published in the Lincoln Journal Star notice. The agenda on the Board’s website also includes links to the agenda items with associated documents the Board will consider, as well as a link to the Nebraska Open Meetings Act. Executive Director Texel explained that if any member of the public wanted to speak, they could click on the “raise your hand” icon. At that time they would be unmuted, they could announce who was speaking, provide an address, and disclose if they represent an organization. Then they could offer their comment or question. All background materials for the agenda items to be acted on were provided to all Board members prior to the meeting and a copy of the materials was in each Board member’s notebook. The executive director announced that a copy of the Nebraska Open Meetings Act was on display on the south wall of the room for the public to review, and another copy was available in a black three-ring binder on the table at 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 June 14, 2021, public meeting. The minutes were sent electronically to the Board members. There was one suggested change. David Reid, Senior Advisor to Bluestem Energy Solutions, pointed out that on page 5, at the end of the first paragraph, the minutes say that the date by which the Board must issue and deliver its decision regarding certain public power district charter amendments to the Secretary of State’s office was March 1, 2021. The correct date is March 1, 2022. Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to approve the minutes with the noted date correction. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of June. In June there was $33,809.74 in personal services, $17,571.11 in operating expenses, and $222.56 in travel expenses. June 30 is the end of the State’s fiscal year. The Board had used 98.29% of its available cash fund, not including the cash reserve fund. There was about $9,000 remaining in the cash fund at the end of the fiscal year, so the cash fund amounts for the last fiscal year ran very close. Mr. Grennan moved to accept the June expense report. Vice Chairman Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was to consider the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska’s (MEAN) Petition for Charter Amendment 36. This amendment would add the cities of Plainview, Nebraska and Denver, Iowa as voting members of MEAN. Executive Director Texel explained that the statutes that set out the approval criteria are in section 18-2433. This statute sets out that the Board must determine that the statements in the petition are true and conform to the public convenience and welfare, and that the plants, systems and works, the operation of the same, the exercise of powers, and the assumption of duties and responsibilities of or on the part of such agency do not nullify, conflict with, or materially affect those of any other district or a corporation organized under the provisions of chapter 70, article 6 or 8, or the Electric Cooperative Corporation Act, or those of any part of such district or corporation. MEAN supplied a certified copy of its Board’s resolutions voting to approve the cities becoming members and a copy of the ordinances passed by both cities approving taking action to become members of MEAN. Public notice was published in the Plainview News of Plainview, Nebraska on June 23, in the Denver Forum of Denver, Iowa on June 16, and statewide notice in Nebraska was published in the Omaha World Herald on June 16, 2021. Written Notice was sent to the Nebraska Public Power District, the Western Area Power Association (WAPA) and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. Written Notice was also sent to the mayors of Denver, Iowa and Plainview, Nebraska. Chris Dibbern, legal counsel for MEAN, spoke on behalf of MEAN. She told the Board that MEAN just celebrated its 40th anniversary on June 22. MEAN did some updating to is statutes in this last Legislative session. These updates allowed MEAN to go to the utilities participating in MEAN’s services and ask if they wanted to become full voting members. Executive Director Texel stated that because there were no protests or objections to the petition, the Board can choose to have a hearing or to waive the hearing. He recommended the Board waive a hearing, since no party requested a hearing. Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to waive the hearing and approve MEAN’s Petition for Charter Amendment 36. Mr. Moen seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The Board’s hearing for application PRB-3949-ESR was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Executive Director Texel explained that the Board would recess its public meeting and conduct the evidentiary hearing on PRB-3949-ESR during the break. Any entity or member of the public was welcome to watch the hearing via Webex, but during the evidentiary hearing those on Webex could not participate. The Board will be operating in its quasi-judicial capacity during the hearing. Due to this, Ms. Loutzenhiser would participate in the hearing via Webex. Since she is a Board member, she is allowed to participate in the hearing on Webex. After the conclusion of the hearing, the Board will reconvene its public meeting and decide if it wants to vote on whether or not to approve application PRB-3949-ESR. The Board recessed it public meeting at 9:35 a.m.
The Board reconvened its public at 12:12 p.m. As previously stated, Ms. Loutzenhiser participated in the evidentiary hearing but would not participate in any discussion or vote on the matter during the Board’s public meeting. She would be eligible to participate in the written decision issued by the Board on the application. All four other Board members were again present.
As explained, during the recess the Board held an evidentiary hearing on PRB-3949-ESR. This is an application filed by Omaha Public Power District to construct or install a one-megawatt energy storage resource (ESR) facility in Cass County, Nebraska. The ESR would be located at a substation approximately two miles west of the City of Weeping Water. OPPD’s application was filed according to the guidelines set out in Guidance Document 14. Guidance Document 14 addresses jurisdictional and procedural aspects of applications for ESRs. Mr. Grennan noted that during the hearing there was discussion about ESR technology and how to utilize ESRs to their fullest potential. This information will be very helpful to Nebraska’s electrical industry. He asked OPPD to share the knowledge it learned about ESRs with the Board as a follow-up in maybe a year or so. Mr. Bruckner, OPPD’s attorney, said that is a good idea and OPPD would be glad to share what it learned with the Board. Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to approve PRB-3494-ESR. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent. Executive Director Texel explained that the Board’s vote is considered to be a preliminary, but binding, ruling by the Board. The written order will still be the Board’s final decision on the application. He explained that in uncontested matters where the Board members can agree that the evidence is clear in favor of approval it is the Board’s longstanding practice to vote on the application during its public meeting as a matter of convenience for the applicant. This lets the applicant know whether the project is approved or not, allowing the project to proceed forward without having to wait four to six weeks for the Board to issue its written decision.
The next item on the agenda was to consider SAA 363-21-A. S.A.A. 363 is the retail service area agreement between the City of Hickman and Norris Public Power District. This is a joint request to amend the service area boundary. The application was filed on June 16, 2021. The application requests to transfer a tract of territory annexed by the City. The territory is northwest of the intersection of Hickman Road and 82nd Street. State law allows a municipal utility to add annexed territory to its retail service area if it files the request within one year of the annexation. The territory is currently part of Norris PPD’s service area. Norris has agreed to the transfer. The Board asked if there are any Norris customers or infrastructure in the annexed area. Ms. Kelly Oelke, Hickman City Administrator, was available on Webex and stated that there was no infrastructure or customers in the area to be transferred. The area is a newly platted subdivision. Executive Director Texel asked for clarification about the designation of the area involved. Exhibit A-2 provides a metes and bounds description of the annexed area. On the exhibit the heading refers to the general area involved as “Terrace View 3rd Addition”. But in the written description the specific annexed area is referred to as “Outlots M and N, Terrace View 1st Addition”. Ms. Oelke explained that the references to the lots were changed to Terrace View 3rd Addition, and the annexed area was Outlot D. The written metes and bounds was created prior to the name change, so the names are different but the descriptions are correct. Mr. Grennan moved to approve SAA 363-21-A between the City of Hickman and Norris Public Power District as described in application SAA 363-21-A. Vice Chairman Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next item was the executive director’s report. The first item was the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) update. Mr. Grennan discussed the upcoming SPP quarterly meetings for the RSC and Board of Directors that was, for now, still scheduled to be in person in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was being monitored whether the meeting would be in person due to an increase in number of COVID cases in Arkansas. Mr. Grennan talked about the release of the SPP’s report on the February winter storm event. There was also discussion about the meeting with Governor Ricketts concerning the winter storm event and how to address the concerns and protocols to avoid blackouts in the future. It was stressed that communication needs to be set up so that customers can be better prepared if something like this happens again. SPP also needed to improve its communication with its member utilities and the Governor’s office. Mr. Grennan felt that once the report is released and reviewed the Board can possibly look at ideas to evaluate what steps need to be taken to be better prepared.
Executive Director Texel updated the Board on the new contract for the SPP consultant. The final language addressing conflicts of interest has been accepted by JK Energy. The new contract is now in effect. Like the previous contract, the contract can be renewed up to five times before a new request for proposals must be issued.
The next item was to consider reimbursement of expenses for the Board’s executive director/general counsel and the Board’s attorney member to attend the 2021 Nebraska State Bar Association’s Government and Administrative Practice section seminar. This will be held in Lincoln on July 30. The cost is $200 for a member of Bar Association. The cost for a non-member would be $260. Topics include “Emergency and Police Powers in a Pandemic”, “Open Meetings Experiences During COVID-19” and a legislative update. Chairman Reida did not believe that he would need to attend. Executive Director Texel stated the seminar also provides continuing legal education credits. Mr. Grennan moved to approve reimbursement of the expenses for the executive director and general counsel to attend the seminar. Vice Chairman Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison –yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was to consider reimbursement of expenses for the 2021 Nebraska Advanced Nuclear Forum. The forum will be held in Lincoln on October 21. Vice Chairman Hutchison and Mr. Grennan had expressed interest in attending the forum. Executive Director Texel explained that the American Public Power Association’s (APPA) Legal Seminar will be held in Georgia at the same time, so he would not be able to attend the forum. The cost is $125 if registered by August 1. It is $150 after August 1. Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to approve reimbursement of expenses for any Board member that wants to attend the nuclear forum. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison –yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The Board tabled the discussion of reimbursement for the 2021 Wind and Solar Conference expenses, as an agenda with speakers is not available yet. The Board will take this up again at the August meeting.
The executive director announced that the Board’s next public meetings are scheduled for August 9, September 13, and (Friday) October 15, 2021. The October meeting had been moved from its normal second Monday of the month due to the Columbus Day holiday on October 11.
Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison –yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Ms. Loutzenhiser – absent, and Mr. Moen – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent. The meeting was adjourned at 1:22 p.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel