NEBRASKA POWER REVIEW BOARD
March 22, 2019
The 801st meeting of the Nebraska Power Review Board (“the Board” or “PRB”) was held in the Liquor Control Commission hearing room, Nebraska State Office Building, 301 Centennial Mall, Lincoln, Nebraska. The roll was called and present were Chairman Reida, Vice Chairman Morehouse, Mr. Grennan, and Mr. Hutchison. Mr. Moen had contacted the office on Thursday and informed the staff there was an emergency at work and he would not be able to attend the meeting. Executive Director Texel stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on March 12, 2019. All background materials for the agenda items to be acted on were provided to all Board members prior to the meeting and a copy 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 north wall of the room for the public to review, and another copy was available in a 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 January 25, 2019, meeting. The staff did not have any recommended changes. Vice Chairman Morehouse moved to approve the minutes from the January 25, 2019 meeting. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen – absent. The motion carried 4– 0 with one absent.
The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of January and February. In January, there was $30,366.59 in personal services, $16,187.74 in operating expenses, and $743.28 in travel expenses. The total expenses for January were $47,297.61. In February, there was $23,366.59 in personal services, $16,460.80 in operating expenses, and $1,835.00 in travel expenses. The total expenses for February were $41,930.51. The January personal services was higher because there were three pay periods in that month. Mr. Grennan moved to accept the expense reports. Vice Chairman Morehouse seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen – absent. The motion carried 4– 0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was a presentation by Frank Daley, executive director of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. The presentation was on conflicts of interest and ethical rules in the State of Nebraska. The Board members thanked Mr. Daley for the presentation.
The next item on the agenda was to consider PRB-3905. This is an application submitted by the City of Hastings Utilities. The application was filed on February 21, 2019. The application is for authority to construct 1.42 miles of 13.8 kV 3-phase distribution line in Adams County. The line would be located along ‘J’ Street and Technical Boulevard. The line would provide a back-up power source for the Whelan Energy Center, Central Community College, MPH Racetrack and the Elks County Club. The line will be underbuilt on an existing 115 kV transmission line. Southern Public Power District submitted a Consent and Waiver form consenting to the project without a hearing. The Board consulted with the Game and Parks Commission as required by Neb. Rev. statute 37-807(3). The Commission stated that the project is in the range of the endangered Whooping Crane and the threatened Northern Long-Eared Bat. There are no records of those species in the project area, nor is there habitat for them. The Commission determined the project would have “no effect” on either species, and did not object to the PRB’s approval of this project. This is the first stage of a two-part project. Hastings will file another application for the second part of the project in the next year in order to spread the costs out between two fiscal years. Vice Chairman Morehouse moved to approve PRB-3905. Mr. Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen – absent. The motion carried 4– 0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was to consider the executive director’s travel expenses for the October meeting of the Western Interconnection Regional Advisory Body (WIRAB). WIRAB and the Committee on Regional Electric Power Cooperation (CREPC) will hold a joint meeting in San Diego, California on October 7-9, 2019. The executive director is a member of the WIRAB board of directors. He has not attend an in-person WIRAB meeting for several years. WIRAB will cover the travel expenses for on representative from each state to attend the fall meeting. The Board might incur the expenses and then be reimbursed, similar to how Mr. Grennan’s expenses are reimbursed by the Southwest Power Pool for his Regional State Committee Activities. That is why the PRB would need to approve the travel expenses. Vice Chairman Morehouse moved to approve the travel expenses for the executive director to attend the October WIRAB meeting. Mr. Hutchison seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen –absent. The motion carried 4– 0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was the executive director’s report. The first item was the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) update. Mr. Hutchison asked about Mr. Krajewski’s monthly report. The report stated that the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) had requested to remove North Omaha units 1, 2 and 3 from the list of retirement exceptions in the 2020 ITP study. Mr. Hutchison asked if the units will not be retired if they will remain as coal units, or be converted to gas, or if they had already been converted. Chairman Reida said he thought he remembered that there was insufficient pipeline capacity to the location to convert all the North Omaha units to natural gas. Mr. Grennan was not sure about the status of the North Omaha units. Mr. Texel said he would contact Mr. Krajewski and ask for additional information on that topic. Mr. Grennan spoke about his meeting on the Holistic Integrated Tariff Team (HITT) team and how it has been meeting monthly. He will participate in another HITT conference call later that day. The quarterly RSC meeting is on April 29 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The next item for discussion was to review the legislative bills pending in the 2019 session of the Nebraska Legislature. The PRB is neutral on all bills unless otherwise noted.
LB 16 was introduced by Senator Breise. This bill provides for withholding of records relating to certain critical infrastructure. The bill amends section 84-712.05, which is part of the public records law. It adds a new section 9 that allows withholding documents pertaining to critical infrastructure that could affect electric utilities. The bill was referred to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The Legislature passed this bill by a 45-0 vote. The Governor has not yet acted on the bill.
LB 76 was introduced by Senator Williams. The bill changes provisions relating to the nameplate capacity for renewable energy infrastructure. The bill clarifies that nameplate capacity references are to alternating current (AC), not to direct current (DC). The bill was referred to the Revenue Committee. The bill was placed on General File on March 13. The bill did not receive a priority designation.
LB 124 was introduced by Senator Crawford. The bill creates Clean Energy Assessment Districts under the Property Assessed Clean Energy Act. The bill was referred to the Urban Affairs Committee. The Legislature already passed this bill by a 44-0 vote on March 15. The Governor had not acted on the bill yet when the executive director checked earlier that week.
LB 150 was introduced by Senator Brewer. The bill changes provisions relating to access to public records and the fees that can be charged. The bill removes the term “citizens” and replaces it with “residents” of Nebraska. It defines the term “resident” to include news media regardless of domicile. It allows public bodies to charge non-residents for the costs to locate and copy records, including the costs for an attorney to review the records. It leaves in place that Nebraska residents do not pay for the first four hours of time to respond to the records request, and they do not pay for attorney review time. The bill was referred to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee and the hearing was held on February 8. The bill did not receive a priority designation.
LB 155 was introduced by Senator Brewer. The bill removes the provision in section 70-1014.02 declaring that the use of eminent domain to provide transmission facilities to serve a privately developed renewable energy generation facility is a public use. The executive director told the Board there is some difference in opinion as to the effect of the amendment. The executive director’s reading is that the change would allow the use of eminent domain, but affected landowners could challenge whether the use of eminent domain was proper because it was for a private, not public, use. That would likely have the effect of making the use of eminent domain in those situations more costly and time consuming. Some others think the change would essentially not allow the use of eminent domain to interconnect privately owned renewable facilities. Senator Brewer designated LB 155 as his priority bill. The bill was referred to the Natural Resources Committee and was placed on General File. The bill fell two votes short of advancing, which would normally kill the bill. But after the vote Senator Clements designated LB 155 as his priority bill. It is the executive director’s understanding that the speaker’s rule this year is that if a bill that failed to advance receives a priority designation it will go back on the agenda, similar to the effect a motion for reconsideration would have. So now the bill will have another chance to obtain the votes to pass.
LB 280 was introduced by Senator Brewer. The bill changes the maximum penalty for a violation of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Act from $2,000 to $5,000. The bill was referred to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. The bill was advanced to General File on March 5, but it did not receive a priority designation.
LB 285 was introduced by Senator McCollister. This bill would appropriate $200,000 to the Nebraska Power Review Board to conduct a study on transmission issues related to renewable energy projects. The fiscal note was prepared using a comparable study done several years ago as a result of LB 1115 (2014). Obviously, the fiscal note was for $200,000. It is the executive director’s understanding that bills that have a substantial fiscal note will face a difficult time this year. The bill was referred to the Natural Resources Committee and the hearing was held on March 14. The executive director testified in a neutral capacity. He described the process used to complete the study for LB 1115 in 2014 and said he would plan to follow a very similar process. The Committee members asked if the LB 1115 study produced any useful results. The executive director testified that the study was the impetus for LB 824, which repealed the Certified Renewable Energy Facility (CREF) statute and replaced it with the current version of section 70-1014.02 which provides for a certification process for privately developed energy generation facilities. The bill is still before the Committee and did not receive a priority designation.
LB 302 was introduced by Senator Hughes at the Governor’s request. This bill would merge the Energy Office into the Department of Environmental Quality and change the agency’s name to the Department of Environment and Energy. The Legislature already passed this bill by a 45-0 vote on March 15. The Governor had not signed it yet when staff last checked, but since the bill was filed at the Governor’s request obviously the Governor would be expected to sign the bill in the next few days.
LB 373 was introduced by Senator Brewer. It provides a 3-mile setback requirement for wind turbines from residences unless the owner provides written permission and requires that zoning provisions deal with decommissioning requirements. After July 1, 2021, wind energy projects could not be constructed unless the county has zoning dealing with specified issues. It creates a cause of action for damages for non-compliance. The bill has an emergency clause. On March 5 Senator Brewer introduced an amendment to move the zoning regulations date back from July 1 to September 7, 2021. The Bill did not receive a priority designation.
LB 509 was introduced by Senator McCollister. It redefines the terms “net metering” and “qualified facility” and changes the powers and duties of the local distribution utilities. The bill amends 70-2002 to allow distribution utilities to charge customer-generators with facilities over 5 kilowatts (kw) capacity a fixed rate based on the utility’s cost of service. The bill also increases the allowable maximum capacity of a net metering facility from 25 kw to 100 kw. However, the utility can limit the capacity of a facility to 110% of a customer’s average monthly usage during the previous year. The bill was referred to the Natural Resources Committee, which held the hearing on March 4. The bill did not receive a priority designation.
LB 700 was introduced by Senator Bostelmann. It provides for decommissioning and reclamation of wind energy facilities. It declares that owners, operators or managers of wind energy conversion systems are responsible for all decommissioning or reclamation costs, and must return the land back to its condition in which it existed prior to commencement of construction of the facility. The bill requires the removal of all above ground and below ground equipment. The executive director was told the Senator Bostelman intends to submit an amendment clarifying that the bill would only apply prospectively, not to existing facilities. The bill was designated as a priority bill by the Natural Resources Committee.
The next meetings are scheduled for April 19, May 31, and June 28. It was noted that the April and May meetings do not follow the normal fourth Friday of the month schedule. The executive director told the Board that the conference room will be moving to the first floor level, in the hallway across from Scooters coffee. The exact move date has not yet been determined. The April meeting is still expected to be in the 5th floor hearing room, but the meetings after that should be on the first floor. Be sure to check the agendas for the current location.
Mr. Hutchison moved to adjourn the meeting. Vice Chairman Morehouse seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Morehouse – yes, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Hutchison – yes, and Mr. Moen – absent. The motion carried 4 – 0. The meeting was adjourned at 10:59 a.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel