Lawmaker: UP Needs Plants, Not Transmission Upgrades
State Rep. Scott Dianda thinks utilities should build new power plants to replace retiring generators in the remote Upper Peninsula, rather than bringing in power over new transmission lines.
Dianda introduced a resolution encouraging the build-out of new power plants to serve the Upper Peninsula, saying it would be more cost-effective than transmission lines. Dianda pointed to the imminent retirement of a 450-MW We Energies plant at Presque Isle as evidence of the need for new generation. The aging coal plant remains operating under an order from MISO, which determined the plant had to stay online to preserve system reliability.
More: Midwest Energy News
BPU Orders Third-Party Suppliers Provide Simpler Offer Details
The Board of Public Utilities ordered third-party electricity suppliers to explain their offers to consumers in plain language. The order was a response to a flood of complaints from customers who were hit with large bills last winter.
Suppliers now are required to clearly tell consumers if they are getting a fixed rate or a variable rate. Many customers said they were unaware of provisions in their contracts that pegged their electric bills to natural gas prices, which soared during the winter. The changes are to go into effect next month.
“This is really an evolving process,’’ BPU Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso said. “It is important the industry become involved in the educational process. We didn’t expect this sustained cold.’’
More: NJ Spotlight
No Need for NCUC Hearing for New Plant, Owners Say
NTE Carolinas wants to build a one-on-one combined-cycle plant called the Kings Mountain project in Cleveland County. It has already won approval from NCUC staff. There have been no opposition filings to the project since it was announced in June. If approved, NTE said construction would begin in June of 2015 and operations would start in March of 2018.
UNC Assigning Profs to Duke Ash Study Group
The University of North Carolina is putting together a panel of experts to review Duke Energy’s plans and procedures to close its ash ponds and dumps across the nation, part of an effort to hold the company accountable after a devastating ash spill in the Dan River earlier this year.
The National Ash Management Advisory Board will be chaired by UNC professor John Daniels, an environmental engineer known for reuse of waste materials. The board, which is funded by Duke, will provide guidance to the Duke team overseeing the ash disposal plan. Duke has 33 impoundment ponds and dumps throughout the state holding fly ash from coal-fired generation stations.
More: Stanly News and Press
Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipeline Given Utility Status by PUC
The Public Utility Commission rejected an advisory opinion and reaffirmed public utility status for Sunoco Logistics Partners and its proposed pipeline, Mariner East. The PUC sent the issue back to administrative law judges to examine Sunoco’s request for a zoning exemption to construct buildings around valve control and pump stations along the 300-mile pipeline.
Sunoco Pipeline is repurposing an existing pipeline to move Marcellus Shale liquefied natural gas to a terminal near Philadelphia, a process that requires new pump and valve control stations on the 83-year-old pipeline. Sunoco had asked that the pump stations be exempt from local zoning restrictions. Some landowners and local governments had hoped to impede the project through zoning hearings.
Two PUC administrative law judges recommended rejecting Sunoco’s status as a public utility, which is the basis for obtaining the local zoning exemptions, but the PUC said the pipeline company qualifies.
“Sunoco’s amended petitions adequately plead sufficient facts for the commission to find that it is both a ‘public utility’ and a ‘public utility corporation,’” the commission wrote in a 4-1 ruling.
DEP Seeks Record Fine Against Shale Gas Driller
The Department of Environmental Protection is seeking a $4.5 million fine against a Pittsburgh natural gas producer for allowing fracking wastewater to leak from impoundments. If the fine is upheld, it would be a record for the state.
The DEP charged that EQT allowed a “major pollution incident” in 2012 in Tioga County. It said EQT first noticed a possible leak in April, but the company said it discovered the leak in May and that it took steps to contain it and dispose of contaminated soil. The DEP, however, said the spill continued to cause problems and that water was still being collected at the site.
Other drillers have faced DEP fines for similar issues. In September, Range Resources agreed to pay a $4.15 million fine related to wastewater contamination.
Exelon-Pepco Merger Gets OK from SCC
The State Corporation Commission last week approved the merger between Exelon and Pepco Holdings Inc., one more hurdle crossed for the $6.8 billion deal. The approval was needed because Pepco and one of its subsidiaries, Delmarva Power and Light, have some transmission facilities in Virginia.
The merger still needs regulatory approval from Maryland, D.C., New Jersey and Delaware, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Pepco stockholders approved the merger on Sept. 23.
Exelon is promising reliability improvements for all Pepco territories, as well as a $100 million customer benefit fund that can be applied toward rate credits, energy-efficiency programs and assistance programs. Exelon is also promising to contribute $50 million to charitable organizations in Pepco territories.
McAuliffe’s Energy Plan Has Something for Everyone
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s new energy plan casts a wide net, promising support for renewables, new traditional energy projects, coal exports and infrastructure investment. The state rolls out an energy plan every four years.
The plan calls for easing restrictions on solar development and boosting renewable energy. Virginia now only counts about 6% renewables as part of its generation mix, most of that hydro. The plan also calls for a revenue-sharing plan for any gas and oil extracted from offshore development, as well as additional incentives to develop wind energy.
Recognizing that domestic demand is declining for the state’s coal resources, the plan calls for increasing exports of coal and coal technology.
The plan drew initial praise from industry and environmentalists. “We appreciate and agree with the governor’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy strategy and his recognition of the need for new energy infrastructure investments,” Dominion spokesman David Botkin said. The Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter saw “a lot of good stuff in this plan on efficiency, offshore wind and solar,” according to chapter Director Glen Besa.
More: Newport News Daily Press
State Accepting Bids to Drill Under Ohio River
The state is looking for ways to deal with tight budgets and has hit upon a new one.
Last week, the state opened bids to drill under a 14-mile section of its portion of the Ohio River. Officials from the Department of Commerce say that allowing drilling on state land and now under a state-controlled river would generate $17.8 million in up-front payments, plus royalties.
Until horizontal drilling methods were improved, such extraction wasn’t feasible. But now, allowing fracking under rivers “creates what could be a substantial revenue stream at a time when budgets are very tight,” according to Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette. State officials said other river tracts could be next.
More: The Charleston Gazette
AEP to Transfer Partial Ownership of Mitchell to Wheeling Power
American Electric Power, consumer groups and energy-efficiency advocates have reached an agreement that will let the company transfer half ownership of the 1,600-MW Mitchell Power Plant to subsidiary Wheeling Power.
According to a filing with the Public Service Commission that outlines the terms of the agreement, Wheeling would pay about 82.5% for half of the interest in the plant, with the final payment set in 2020. The agreement, if approved by the PSC, would leave state rate payers responsible for half of what had been a merchant plant, leaving them open to some market risk.
AEP wanted to transfer ownership to a regulated utility in order to obtain rate guarantees. An attempt to transfer partial ownership to Appalachian Power, which is regulated by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, was turned down by Virginia regulators.
To make the deal more palatable for consumer groups and energy-efficiency advocates, AEP promised to bulk up its annual spending on energy-efficiency programs from $1.8 million to $10 million. The company will also issue RFPs for any new generation it may need in the future. This would encourage participation by renewable-energy producers, offsetting criticism that AEP’s generation mix consists of too much coal.
More: The Charleston Gazette