NEBRASKA POWER REVIEW BOARD
Minutes of the 823rd Meeting
September 13, 2021
The 823rd 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 public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on September 3, 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 is 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 August 9, 2021, public meeting. The minutes were sent electronically to the Board members. Executive Director Texel stated that he did not receive any suggested changes or comments. Mr. Moen had two suggested changes on page two. In the middle of the paragraph the word “can” should be “and”. Also the list of Board member names in that paragraph uses her former last name (Hilyard) prior to her married name of Loutzenhiser. Mr. Moen moved to approve the draft minutes with the two suggested changes. 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 July. In July there was $27,203.37 in personal services, $16,208.05 in operating expenses, and $459.04 in travel expenses. The total August expenses was $43,870.46. During the discussion of the cash fund the Board reviewed the per diem amount for the Southwest Power Pool Regional State Committee representative. There was discussion on whether the Board should pursue a statute change to increase the maximum allowed per diem payments. Currently the RSC member’s per diem is capped at $20,000 per calendar year. Ms. Hallgren keeps track of how much has been spent on per diems. At the end of August the RSC member’s per diem was at $15,000. The RSC member’s receives $250 per diem. The Board asked what happens if the RSC member has more per diem days than can be paid under the maximum allowed by statute. Executive Director Texel said he did not know the answer to that for sure and would need to ask either State Accounting or the Budget Office. His thought is that the RSC member would need to stop attending meetings or otherwise engage in Board business because the agency would not be able to pay him. The Board members agreed that this was an issue that needed to be addressed with a statute change in the next session. The RSC member is an important position representing the State of Nebraska at the Southwest Power Pool. The Board asked the executive director to look into this and put the issue of a statutory increase in the allowable per diems on the agenda for the October meeting. Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to accept the August expense report. 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 wanted to take up the next two agenda items together, as they are closely related. The Board considered the withdrawal of applications PRB-3950 and PRB-3951. Both of these applications are a result of construction needed to serve the Monolith Materials facility north of Hallam, Nebraska. PRB-3950 was submitted by the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). PRB-3951 was submitted by the Lincoln Electric System (LES). PRB-3950 would be replaced with a new application, designated PRB-3954. PRB-3951 would be replaced with a new application by LES. The LES application was submitted already and was approved administratively by the staff, as the new configuration involves less than one-half mile of line. The background on the withdrawal of the applications was that after NPPD and LES submitted the applications, Monolith decided the cost was more than what was anticipated and asked to have the construction reevaluated to lower the cost. The PRB rules require that the Board vote to approve the withdrawal of any application once it is filed. This is the reason for the two applications on the agenda. Vice Chairman Hutchison moved to approve the withdrawal of both PRB-3950 and PRB-3951. 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 item on the agenda was to consider application PRB-3954. This is an application filed by NPPD. This replaces the withdrawn application PRB-3950. The application is for proposed construction of transmission facilities needed to allow Norris Public Power District to provide retail service to the Monolith Materials manufacturing facility north of Hallam. The application was filed on August 18, 2021. The project involves 1.12 miles of 345 kilovolt (kV) line, 1.41 miles of 115 kV line and a 345 kV substation. NPPD will also acquire .73 mile of an existing 115 kV line currently owned by LES. The proposed facilities will be located Norris PPD’s retail service area. Both Norris PPD and LES submitted Consent and Waiver forms consenting to approval of the application and waiving a hearing. The Board consulted with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (the Commission) as required by Nebraska revised statute 37-807(3). In a letter dated August 19, 2021, the commission determined the project is in the range of the threatened Northern Long-Eared Bat and Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. There is no suitable habitat in the project area for the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. However, the area does have mature trees suitable for roosting by the Northern Long-Eared Bats. The roosting period is June 1 to July 31. NPPD agreed with the Commission that it will not remove any trees during the roosting period. Due to the time frame involved, the roosting period should not be an issue unless the project encounters very significant delays. Based on NPPD’s confirmation, the Commission determined the project “May Affect, but is not likely to Adversely Affect” any threatened or endangered species. Therefore, the commission did not object to approval of this application. Dave Schlautman, NPPD’s project manager, spoke on behalf of the project. The Board members noted the project involves significant expenses. They asked what would happen in the unlikely event Monolith were to decide it does not need the project any longer or would face bankruptcy, etc. Mr. Schlautman explained that Monolith has to deposit $19 million in an escrow account, and that fund will be prorated when Monolith begins to utilize the service provided by the project. NPPD requires the security so if Monolith would abandon the project, NPPD would not lose out on the project cost. He also explained that the Southwest Power Pool will socialize the cost for the larger transmission lines. The cost that is not socialized is the 34.5 kV portion in the substation, as that is considered a local project. Randy Lindstrom, NPPD transmission planning supervisor, explained how NPPD identified the need for two 115 kV lines to serve the Olive Creek substation. NPPD worked with LES and NextEra (owner of a local wind generation facility) to address the need for the 115 kV lines. These negotiations allowed the utilities to avoid duplication of facilities. The Board asked NPPD to describe the service relationships involved in the project. The NPPD officials stated that Norris is the retail service provider and it will build additional infrastructure if needed, but since it is Norris’ service area Norris would not need to submit an application. Mr. Grennan moved to approve NPPD’s application PRB-3954. 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 PRB-3955. This is an application submitted by the City of Hastings. Hastings Utilities filed the application on August 18, 2021. The application is for .543 mile of 115 kV line, .773 mile of 13.8 kV line, and a transformer in an existing substation. The construction is in the Southern PPD’s service area. The location is southeast of the intersection of Highway 6 and Coal Train Road, on the east side of Hastings. The construction will serve the new Heartwell Renewables bio-fuel facility. Southern PPD submitted a Consent and Waiver form consenting to approval of the application and waiving a hearing. The Board consulted with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as required by Nebraska revised statute 37-807(3). In a letter dated August 23, 2021, the commission determined the project is in the range of the threatened Northern Long-Eared Bat and Whooping Crane. There is no suitable habitat in the project area for Whooping Cranes. However, the area does have mature trees suitable for roosting by the Northern Long-Eared Bats. The roosting period is June 1 to July 31. The construction will not occur during this time-frame so that is not an issue. Since Hastings Utilities confirmed there would be no tree removal, the Commission determined the project will have “No Affect” on any threatened or endangered species. Therefore, the commission did not object to approval of this application. Mr. Moen moved to approve Hastings Utilities’ application PRB-3955. 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 discussion on whether the Board should submit comments in response to FERC ANOPR RM21-17. On July 15, 2021, FERC issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in docket RM21-17. Comments on this docket are due October 12, 2021 and reply comments are due November 9. Executive Director Texel told the Board multiple parties requested an extension of time for submission of both the comments and the reply comments. FERC denied the request to extend the comment period, but granted an extension for reply comments from November 9 to November 30. Unfortunately, the Board’s next meeting is October 15, so there will not be another meeting prior to the initial comment deadline. Vice Chairman Hutchison had several comments outlined. The comments were believed to summarize the thoughts that the Board would need to submit. Vice Chairman Hutchison will send his outline to Mr. Texel so he could expand the comments and then send them to all the members and collect any further thoughts. All four Board members present agreed a committee should be formed to approve the final version of the comments prior to submittal. The Board members agreed to appoint Mr. Grennan and Vice Chairman Hutchison as the committee to review and approve the comments to FERC. Chairman Reida moved that the Board should submit comments in response to ANOPR RM21-17, and to appoint a committee consisting of Board members Grennan and Hutchison to approve the final version prior to submission. 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 next item was the executive director’s report. The first item was the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) update. The next RSC meeting is September 20. The Board believed that it would be a good idea to have draft comments prepared in response to paragraph 64 in the FERC ANOPR, so that Mr. Grennan could share the draft with the other RSC Commissioners and the comments could be discussed.
Executive Director Texel then told the Board that President Biden appointed Willie Phillips to be a FERC commissioner. Mr. Phillips is the Chair of the District of Columbia Public Service Commission. FERC commissioners do require senate confirmation.
Executive Director Texel explained that Shelley Sahling, LES general counsel, asked him to convey to the Board an offer to give the Board members a tour of the new LES facility headquarters on Rokeby Road. The Board members liked that idea. The Board members said they would determine at a later time when to take LES up on the offer.
The executive director announced that the Board’s next public meetings are scheduled for October 15 (a Friday), November 8, and December 13, 2021. The October meeting had been moved from its normal second Monday of the month due to the Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day holiday on October 11. He also reminded the Board that in December the Board would likely need to have another meeting between Christmas and New Year’s Day to review and approve public power district charter amendments. Mr. Grennan stated that he would be out of state after December 28. If the meeting would be on the 27th or before he would be available.
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 11:47 a.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel