Photo credit: U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; courtesy APPA.

Kelly outlines impact of greenhouse gas regulations, grid security and distributed generation on public power

By David Blaylock. This article originally appeared in the APPA Public Power Daily on Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association (APPA), outlined three key issues affecting the delivery of affordable, reliable electric service — greenhouse gas regulations, cyber and physical security, and distributed generation. She was speaking at APPA’s national Engineering and Operations Technical Conference in Oklahoma City on April 7.

The Obama administration has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to put rules in place to limit greenhouse gas emissions from both new and existing plants before the conclusion of the president’s second term. There are concerns over this expedited timetable and confusion over the role of the states in setting standards and developing compliance plans for new units, Kelly said.

As the EPA develops its carbon regulations under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, APPA is working to convince the agency that it must comport with proper legal standards under the clean air law, she said.

There is an assumption that plants can just use natural gas for the time being. However, “recent price jumps from the polar vortex and other hiccups illustrate just how volatile natural gas prices are. We have to be aware of this before we put all of our chips in natural gas,” she cautioned.

On cyber and physical security, Kelly highlighted recent collaborative work between industry coalitions and the government to keep the grid and utility facilities safe from outside threats.

“This was going along beautifully until earlier this year when The Wall Street Journal ran a series of articles on the Metcalf Substation, which was subject to a systematic nighttime attack,” she said. The media coverage has heightened regulatory and legislative interest in grid security. This includes the reintroduction of the Grid Act, which would allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to impose new reliability standards. “Our goal for physical security standards is to limit the rulemaking to the truly critical facilities and to provide utilities that have such facilities the flexibility to decide how to protect those facilities rather than have prescriptive standards,” she said.

On distributed generation, Kelly warned those in attendance that it’s “likely coming to a utility near you.” The increased focus on distributed generation is coming from state and local tax and ratemaking subsidies, she said. “We’re seeing new technological leaps and strong consumer interest, especially with solar [photovoltaics]. High degrees of distributed generation penetration will obviously have an impact on utility operations, revenue recovery, retail customer relationships, and resource portfolios.”

Kelly advised utilities to look for ways to make distributed generation work. “You have to work with your customers as you implement this new suite of technology and tools, balancing the interests of the customers who are doing it, those who have no interest in doing it, and your bond holders affected by the impact on revenue recovery.”

“We should be doing all of this proactively to have distributed generation options that are cost-effective and work for everyone,” she said, noting that community solar, in particular, is more cost-effective than rooftop solar and easier to work with for a utility.

Public power utilities are poised to face all these pressing issues and APPA is standing by to advocate and lead the way, Kelly said.

“We stand ready to assist,” she concluded. “And I really look forward to working with all of you in my new role.”

Integra

Integra Plastics announces expansion in Madison

 

Integra owner Mick Green, LAIC Executive Director Julie Gross and Integra CFO Virg Garbers. Photo courtesy www.amazingmadison.com.

Integra owner Mick Green, LAIC Executive Director Julie Gross and Integra CFO Virg Garbers. Photo courtesy http://www.amazingmadison.com.

Integra Plastics, Inc. announced Friday at the Lake Area Improvement Corporation’s annual meeting that it will be expanding its Madison plant later this spring, with hopes of being fully operational by fall of this year.

“I am pleased Integra Plastics, Inc. chose to expand in South Dakota,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “Integra’s decision to grow its facility will bring business and tax dollars to South Dakota; importantly, it will also create more jobs for South Dakotans.”

According to LAIC Executive Director Julie Gross, Integra is planning to build across the road from its current facility in the Lakeview Industrial Park in Madison. Integra has been in Madison for more than 20 years and has been a longtime supporter of local economic development.

“Our company prides itself in providing our customers with superior products and quality customer service. Our decision to expand our Madison facility will only make that easier to do,” said Integra Chief Financial Officer Virg Garbers.

In 2009, HCPD presented Integra officials with an electric rebate for an expansion on its Madison facility.

In 2009, HCPD presented Integra officials with an electric rebate for an expansion on its Madison facility.

This latest expansion is not the first for Integra in recent years. In 2009, Integra qualified for a $16,000 electric rebate for the addition of four full-time employees and 20,000 square feet to its plant.

Integra Plastics, Inc. provides installation services, technical assistance and mechanical expertise along with its core business of fabrication and conversion capabilities. The company specializes in manufacturing specialty polyethylene, polypropylene and PVC sheeting. For more information, visit www.integraplastics.com.

Featured image courtesy news.thomasnet.com.
SONY DSC

STB to hold hearing on rail service issues

The Surface Transportation Board announced April 1 that it will hold a public hearing on April 10, 2014 in regards to recent railroad service issues. The Board also intends to review proposed solutions to existing service problems and discuss additional options to improve service.

The Board has been closely monitoring the rail industry’s performance metrics and is concerned about service problems across the nation’s railroad network, particularly on the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CP) and BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) systems. The public hearing announcement comes on the heels of a petition by the Western Coal Traffic League (WCTL) asking the Board to institute a proceeding to address BNSF’s alleged service failures.

Coal stockpiles at Whelan Energy Center Unit 2, pictured here in 2011, are reaching low levels due to poor rail service from BNSF.

Coal stockpiles at Whelan Energy Center Unit 2, pictured here in 2011, are reaching low levels due to poor rail service from BNSF.

In a letter to the Board, the WCTL said the BNSF’s service problems have “reached crisis proportions for numerous BNSF coal transportation customers,” and many of the league’s members “fear they will run out of coal, if not now, by summer.

The Board’s Office of Public Assistance, Governmental Affairs and Compliance has been working with affected parties to better understand the problems shippers are facing and to help facilitate service solutions. Board staff recently held a meeting in North Dakota with shippers from multiple states and the agency anticipates additional meetings in other affected areas.

The public hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Board’s Hearing Room at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. BNSF and CP have been directed to appear at the hearing, and the agency encourages impacted shippers and other Class 1 carriers to appear as well.

“Coal stockpiles at both Laramie River Station and Whelan Energy Center Unit 2 continue to decline,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “The railways blame delivery delays on the recent cold weather, however other factors may also be leading to the poor service. We will continue to monitor the situation and work with project partners to ensure continued operation of our plants.”

oshalogo

From APPA: Revised OSHA rule will have a significant impact on the utility industry

The electric power industry has long awaited the final rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that was issued April 1, APPA Senior Vice President of Engineering Services Michael Hyland said yesterday. (See the April 1 Public Power Daily.) “Deciphering exactly how this rule impacts today’s public power systems will be the focus of APPA staff and utility personnel over the upcoming months, if not years,” he said.

OSHA last issued rules for the construction of transmission and distribution installations in 1972, Hyland noted. The revised 1910.269 and Subpart V rules will become effective on July 10, 2014, he said. The compliance deadline for some provisions—on fall protection, minimum approach distances, and arc-flash protection—is April 1, 2015.

“The impact  of the rule on utility operations budgets and work practices, as well as the effective dates of this ruling, are important to APPA and its members,” Hyland said. “These rule changes have been in the making since 2004 and APPA has been engaged throughout the period. In APPA’s written comments to OSHA (October, 2005), APPA staff argued for utilities to be granted additional time in implementing certain sections of the rule once it became final. Although OSHA may not have agreed with all of our technical comments, we are encouraged that OSHA staff understand the difficulty of addressing arc-flash and fall protection, and calculating new minimum approach distances (MAD) in such a short timeframe,” Hyland said.

As APPA’s Lineworkers Rodeo and Engineering & Operations Technical Conference kicks off this weekend in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, APPA staff “appreciates any feedback and concerns that public power utilities may wish to voice,” Hyland said. The APPA engineering staff is working with OSHA to secure a technical representative from the agency’s Washington, D.C., office to discuss the new final rule at the April 9 Safety Roundtable – one of the safety sessions that will be part of the E&O Conference next week in Oklahoma. Contact Mike at 202/467-2986 or mhyland@publicpower.org with questions or comments.

More information on the final OSHA rule is posted on the agency’s website.

This article originally appeared in APPA’s Public Power Daily, Thursday, April 3.
811

April proclaimed safe digging month

811-SDWith warm weather around the corner, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the South Dakota One Call Board remind those planning to do any excavation work that state law requires a call to 811 at least two working days before beginning any digging project in order to give professional locators time to mark the appropriate underground utility lines. Such projects include, but are not limited to, installing a fence, planting trees or shrubbery or preparing a new garden area.

This spring Governor Dennis Daugaard is proclaiming April as safe digging month and commemorating the South Dakota One Call program for providing 20 years of valuable service by facilitating the location of underground utilities to South Dakota residents.

811811 is a free service that connects excavators and homeowners to South Dakota One Call Center personnel who quickly notify all affected utility companies of the upcoming excavation plans. Excavators must contact the One Call center 48 hours before digging, excluding weekends and legal holidays. Utility companies will dispatch their crews to mark the underground lines at the respective dig site. Excavators should carefully plan their digging projects to ensure adequate time for notification to South Dakota One Call is part of their schedule.

Last year the South Dakota One Call program received 136,814 locate requests and sent out 807,176 locate tickets to utility companies across the state – a slight uptick from 2012, indicating more South Dakotans are using the program.

“It’s essential that homeowners and professional excavators take time to locate and mark all underground utility lines,” PUC Chairman Gary Hanson said. “Damaged lines can lead to service interruptions and may have detrimental effects on the environment.”

The depth of each utility line varies so the risk of striking a line or pipe exists even a few inches below the ground. To keep the integrity of the utilities intact, it’s important to call 811 even for small projects.

“Our main goal is to protect the public and the working professionals from potential injury,” Erin Hayes, South Dakota One Call Board chairman and director of corporate construction for Midcontinent Communications, said. “Following the One Call process is simple: Call before you dig, be mindful of the marks and dig with care.”

To learn more about 811 and safe digging practices, visit www.onecall.sd.gov.

Residents in Minnesota and Iowa have similar one call boards as well. Visit www.gopherstateonecall.org or www.iowaonecall.com, respectively, for more information.