NEBRASKA POWER REVIEW BOARD
Minutes of the 831st Meeting
June 17, 2022
The 831st 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, Mr. Grennan, Mr. Moen, and Ms. Peck. Vice Chairman Hutchison was traveling for work, but was viewing the meeting via Webex. He did not participate in the public meeting. Executive Director Texel stated that public notice for the meeting had been published in the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper on June 7, 2022. 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 documents associated with the agenda items the Board will consider at the meeting, as well as a link to the Nebraska Open Meetings Act. Executive Director Texel explained that if any member of the public watching the meeting on Webex 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. They could also type a question out in the chat function if they prefer. 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 in the back of the room, as well as extra copies of the agenda.
The Board first considered the draft minutes from its May 20, 2022, public meeting. The minutes were sent electronically to the Board members. The staff did not have any recommended changes. Mr. Grennan moved to approve the draft minutes. Mr. Moen seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – absent, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next agenda item was acceptance of the expense report for the month of May. In May there was $24,037.60 in personal services, $15,979.96 in operating expenses, and $873.24 in travel expenses. The total May expenses were $40,890.80. Eleven months of the fiscal year has gone by as of the end of May, which is approximately 92 percent of the fiscal year, and the Board has used 88.89% of the cash fund. Mr. Moen moved to accept the May expense report. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – absent, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The next item on the agenda was a presentation by representatives from the Southwest Power Pool. The presentation was given by Paul Suskie, SPP general counsel, and Lee Elliott, SPP Regulatory Analyst. The presentation covered background information about SPP and an annual update on its activities. The presentation highlighted the SPP’s different committees and those on the Board of Directors. Mr. Suskie pointed out that Nebraska’s utilities have a very active role on the multiple committees of SPP. The presentation also highlighted the event of winter storm Uri that occurred in February 2021. The Board thanked both Mr. Suskie and Mr. Elliott for coming to Lincoln and giving this update to the Board.
At 10:35 a.m. the Board recessed its public meeting. During the recess the Board conducted a hearing regarding whether the Northeast Nebraska Telephone Company had timely filed its Protests in Nebraska Public Power District’s microwave application, PRB-3970-M.
The Board reconvened its public meeting at 12:43p.m. All members that were present prior to the recess were again present.
The next item on the agenda was to consider PRB-3970-M. The executive director explained that this application had been placed on the agenda prior to the filing of a Protest, and was left on the agenda in case the parties came to an agreement. With the Protest, the Board will not be acting in its quasi-judicial role on the microwave application and not through its public meetings role. All four Board members agreed to table this item until the July meeting.
The Board then discussed its draft of comments in response to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) in docket RM 21-17. At the Board’s May meeting the Board discussed whether it should submit comments to FERC in the proceeding. The Board had decided it would submit comments. The original deadline for comments was July 18, 2022. The executive director told the Board FERC granted a motion to extend the deadline for comments to August 17, 2022. The Board’s August meeting falls two days after the deadline. Due to this, the Board must approve any comments at its July 15 public meeting. The Board previously asked if the Regional State Committee was going to file any comments. Vice Chairman Hutchison had asked and told the Board that the SPP RSC would not be filing comments. The RSC is leaving it up to the individual states to file comments. Executive Director Texel stated that he has been trying to read through the NOPR, which is approximately 350 pages without the appendices and Commissioner dissents. He has taken notes on the important paragraphs of the Order and compiled thoughts and recommendations for the Board’s comments. He would like the Board’s comments to be more specific on the issues this time. In its comments on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR) in this proceeding, the Board’s comments had been fairly high-level. The Board created a committee of Vice Chairman Hutchison and Mr. Grennan to work with the executive director on preparing a draft to present to the entire Board at the July 15 meeting. There was some discussion on the NOPR. One of the questions brought up was the FERC comments on cost allocation that required joint ownership of certain transmission lines. Chairman Reida wanted to know what exactly a jointly owned transmission would look like, and why FERC would require joint ownership. Chris Dibbern, legal counsel for the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), explained that it jointly owns the interconnection for the Walter Scott Generation Facility in Iowa. MEAN owns a percentage of this facility, which includes the related interconnection facilities. Such sharing of costs, or the joint ownership of interconnection facilities, make such projects more affordable and therefore more likely to be built. Chairman Reida thanked Ms. Dibbern for her explanation. Ms. Dibbern also said she would like to comment on another item later in the agenda – the executive director and general counsel’s proposed pay raise. She wanted to provide the input that Mr. Texel works well with the utilities and is knowledgeable about the industry.
The next item on the agenda was approval of the PRB’s updated assessment figure for fiscal year 2022-2023. At the May meeting the Board approved an assessment figure of 12.551091 cents per $1,000. After that meeting, a utility contacted the staff about its gross revenue. The utility had mistakenly underreported its gross revenue by a couple thousand dollars. The staff had discussed the situation with Ms. Peck (the Board’s designated accountant member) and she agreed that the best option to address the situation was to recalculate the assessment figure and approve an updated assessment figure at the June meeting. Rebecca Hallgren, the Board’s business manager, checked with the Budget Office and they did not have a problem with the updated figure. The updated assessment figure will be 12.55108439 cents per $1,000 gross revenue for fiscal year 2022-2023. Mr. Moen moved to approve the updated assessment figure of 12.55108439 cents per $1,000 gross revenue for Fiscal Year 2022-2023. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – absent, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
The first item on the executive director’s report was an update on the Southwest Power Pool activities. The Board had a copy of JK Energy’s update in its notebook. Vice Chairman Hutchison was currently traveling and was unavailable to provide his usual SPP update. However, the Board had already discussed recent SPP activities during the SPP presentation.
The executive director said the PRB and Electric industry representatives met on May 27 for a workshop. Executive Director Texel gave an overview of that workshop. There main group created a sub-group to examine the resource adequacy issue. The members of this group are Mr. Grennan, Vice Chairman Hutchison, John McClure (NPPD), Kevin Wailes (LES), Shelley Sahling (LES) and Joe Lang (OPPD). This group is scheduled to meet on June 28. The main group also formed a sub-group to research what, if any, authority other states’ utility commissions have over resource adequacy issues. The main workshop group is scheduled to meet again on August 12. Executive Director Texel stated that he reserved the same room in the state office building for the August 12 meeting.
Executive Director Texel updated the Board on an e-mail he received from FERC about issuing a NOPR concerning interconnection queue reforms to reduce backlogs for generation interconnection requests. During the SPP presentation the Board discussed how the queue may have many requests for one facility, but at many different alternate sites, or possibly different capacities. The developers will submit multiple requests until they determine the best location for a generation facility. Most of the facilities in the queue do not get built. This system has created considerable backlog for the SPP reviewing requests. FERC has not issued a NOPR yet, the notice was just an informal notification that a NOPR on this topic would be coming in the future.
The next item on the agenda was for the Board to consider whether it will approve a pay raise for the executive director and general counsel. All eligible state employees, both the bargaining unit and the rules covered employees, will receive a 2% pay raise, along with an additional 1% based on performance evaluation effective July 1, 2022. Agency heads are non-classified employees, so their salary is left to the discretion of the Board or Commission, limited by the agency’s budget constraints. The Legislature appropriated to the agency an appropriation to cover a 3% increase for all three PRB employees. Ms. Dibbern had commented on Mr. Texel’s performance earlier in the meeting and had to leave the meeting for other business. Mr. Grennan moved to give the executive director and general counsel a 3% pay increase effective July 1, 2022. Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – absent, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Moen – yes, and Ms. Peck – yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent.
Executive Director Texel reminded the Board that the next meetings are July 15, August 19, and September 16, 2022.
Chairman Reida moved to adjourn the meeting. Mr. Grennan seconded the motion. Voting on the motion: Chairman Reida – yes, Vice Chairman Hutchison – absent, Mr. Grennan – yes, Mr. Moen – yes and Ms. Peck –yes. The motion carried 4-0 with one absent. The meeting was adjourned at 1:56 p.m.
Timothy J. Texel
Executive Director and General Counsel