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Dairyland Power Cooperative’s transmission through Onalaska and La Crosse is something to see…

Dairyland Power Cooperative and USDA’s Rural Utilities Service has released the “Q-1D South” Environmental Assessment, open for Comment until July 1, 2016:

Q1-South_Environmental Assessment (BIG FILE)

And from Dairyland’s site:

Briggs Road to La Crosse Tap (Q-1D South) – Environmental Assessment

Comments are due July 1, 2016 — send to:

USDA’s Dennis Rankin:  dennis.rankin@wdc.usda.gov

(I’d also cc DPC’s Chuck Thompson:  cat@dairynet.com)

By U.S. Mail:

Dennis Rankin

Environmental Protection Specialist

USDA Rural Utilities Service

1400 Independence Avenue S.W.

Mailstop 1571, Room 2242

Washington, DC  20250-1571

What’s to comment on?  I see two issues that should be sufficient to stop this project in its tracks — the debt load of Dairyland Power Cooperative and the physical setting of the project which too near and right over people’s homes.

Debt load — Dairyland Power Cooperative’s debt is excessive and should prohibit taking on more debt:

Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Annual Meeting was last week.  One purpose of an organization’s Annual Meeting is to discuss its financial status and approve plans going forward.

Dairyland depends on federal USDA/RUS loans to pay for its transmission expansion, such as the Q-1 transmission upgrades, including Marshland-Briggs Road and now the stretch from Briggs Road to North La Crosse south of I-90. Another USDA/RUS loan paid for Dairyland’s share of the CapX La Crosse line now blighting the bluffs. Dairyland will also be part owner of the MISO Hickory Creek to Cardinal line from Iowa to Madison. That’s a lot of transmission and loans.

Dairyland recognized this financial risk and lopsided debt/equity position, and in 2012 sought help from FERC_(DPC_Request4DeclaratoryOrder), requesting a hypothetical capital structure of 35 percent equity and 65 percent debt when its actual capital structure was 16.5 percent equity and 83.5 percent debt, and FERC did grant this relief in an Order for DPC for CapX 2020 (see FERC Docket, go HERE and plug in docket EL13-19-000).  That Order, and the 83.5/16.5% debt/equity ratio was prior to the present Q-1 D South project and the MISO MVP Hickory Creek to Cardinal transmission line.  Dairyland requested a “hypothetical” (bogus) debt/equity ratio to preserve its credit rating and enable low cost loans. The true debt level makes DPC a higher risk.

Are Dairyland members aware of the 83.5%/16.5 % debt/equity ratio and reliance on loans for major transmission projects? What’s the debt level where new projects are included? This new transmission enables increased power marketing and sales, a private purpose. Is this highly leveraged position for new transmission in the best interests of Cooperative members?

Physical setting of the project — it’s just too close!

The map way above is what the transmission system in the area looks like theoretically, according to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, but here’s what Dairyland’s Q-1 South line looks like on the ground:

Ulman_St[1]

Really… Here’s what it looks like from a satellite with the lines drawn in, on the far south:

End of the Line

Here’s what it looks like further north — look at all those homes:

Sheet Map 3

And here’s what the Wisconsin PSC Code says about clearances in PSCW 114.234:

(2) Transmission lines over dwelling units. [Follows NESC 234C1b, p. 119] (Addition) Add the following paragraph c:
c. Transmission lines over dwelling units.
No utility may construct conductors of supply lines designed to operate at voltages in excess of 35 kV over any portion of a dwelling unit. This provision also applies to line conductors in their wind-displaced position as defined in Rule 234A2.
Note: It is the intent under s. SPS 316.225(6) that the public not construct any portion of a dwelling unit under such lines.
Note: The term “dwelling unit” has the meaning given in ch. SPS 316, which adopts by reference the definitions in NEC-2008.
Note: See s. SPS 316.225(6) Clearance Over Buildings and Other Structures, which refers to ch. PSC 114 regarding clearance of conductors over 600 volts and the prohibition of dwellings under or near overhead lines.
So look what Dairyland says about these clearance problems, first on page 3-3 of the Q1-South_Environmental Assessment in its discussion of alternatives, specifically joining with Xcel Energy, which has a similar line right through the community over homes and through yards on the other side of the highway:
p23
Though there’s no case law about this, Dairyland states, “This provision likely applies to Xcel as a public utility but not DPC as a cooperative.”  That’s pretty presumptive, with no basis for the presumption, DPC!  And they wiggle around again, claiming the code doesn’t apply to them 10 pages later:
[33_1p33_2
Do you buy that argument???  First, they don’t even cite the correct PSCW section, using “PSCW 114.234(a)(4)” rather than PSCW 114.234(a)(2).  Note they state that “public utilities may seek waivers of any rule expanding upon NESC requirements…”  But if they’re saying the code doesn’t apply to them, why would this apply to them and they can seek a waiver?  Under their argument that the PSC Code doesn’t apply to them because they’re a cooperative, then if that applied, then this would not apply to them either.  Or is it the opposite, that the Code does apply to them, they cannot rebuild the line under  and have to apply for a waiver to the PSC?  Which is it, Dairyland?  Oh, but wait, I thought part of why you’re doing it the way you are, applying to local governments, in this short segmented version of your Q-1 line, was that you don’t want to have to go to the PSC, that you’re trying to get around it…
Segments
Segmenting, particularly segmenting to avoid environmental review, is not OK, Dairyland…
Remember, comments are due July 1, 2016 — send to:

USDA’s Dennis Rankin:  dennis.rankin@wdc.usda.gov

(I’d also cc DPC’s Chuck Thompson:  cat@dairynet.com)

By U.S. Mail:

Dennis Rankin

Environmental Protection Specialist

USDA Rural Utilities Service

1400 Independence Avenue S.W.

Mailstop 1571, Room 2242

Washington, DC  20250-1571

Be there or be square — transmission open houses in eastern Iowa near Dubuque and southwestern Wisconsin near Cassville.

Monday, May 16 –
Peosta Community Center
7896 Burds Road
Peosta, IA 52068

Tuesday, May 17 –
Pioneer Lanes
1185 US (Business) 151
Platteville, WI 53818

Wednesday, May 18 –
Deer Valley Lodge
401 West Industrial Drive
Barneveld, WI 53507

Thursday, May 19 –
Deer Valley Lodge
401 West Industrial Drive
Barneveld, WI 53507

Where’s Art Hughes when you need him??

Art Hughes has died…  March 31st, 2009

Days before he died, Art Hughes was testifying in Peosta against an ITC transmission line heading east to Peosta, here’s the photo from that hearing, and the article about it is in the “Art Hughes has died…” link above.

arthughes_PeostaAnd now they’re doing another round of open houses, yesterday in Peosta, IA.  Wherefore Art thou?  Well, Art, where are you?  I guess they remember him, because this time it’s “open house” and not a meeting/hearing.  These “open houses” are held by ATC, ITC, and Dairyland about its plan for the Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Project.  This project is the southern part of the “5” project on the MISO MVP project map below, from the Hickory Creek substation (near Dubuque) to the Cardinal substation (near Madison)(the northern part of 5 is the Xcel/ATC Badger Coulee line).  It’s one of the transmission lines that fills in the 345 kV transmission gaps to enable North & South Dakota to Chicago bulk power transfer.

MVP portfolio mapOnce more with feeling: Open House Schedule — each starts at 4 p.m. and goes until 7 p.m. (hello, ITC, it’s planting season, how convenient!):

Monday, May 16 –
Peosta Community Center
7896 Burds Road
Peosta, IA 52068

Tuesday, May 17 –
Pioneer Lanes
1185 US (Business) 151
Platteville, WI 53818

Wednesday, May 18 –
Deer Valley Lodge
401 West Industrial Drive
Barneveld, WI 53507

Thursday, May 19 –
Deer Valley Lodge
401 West Industrial Drive
Barneveld, WI 53507

 

 

A shindig has been announced, at which Xcel Energy will unveil its plans, the options it has deemed “alternatives” to the Hollydale Transmission Project.

Xcel Energy’s Hollydale “Open House”

May 25, 2016 from 12-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m.

Medina Ballroom

500 Highway 55

Medina, Minnesota

Heard some time ago that this was in the works, and made a scheduling request, overtly received with intent to schedule around time I could not attend… well, so much for that.  Gee, thanks, folks!  PPPPPPPPPFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFBT!

Now, on to the Hollydale Transmission Project.  This is the project that Xcel withdrew, because it was apparent that it wasn’t needed… well, Xcel would never admit that, but it was going down in flames:

Xcel and Great River pull the plug on Hollydale applications

 

This is a project that was first applied for in 2011, 5 years ago!  That project was a plan to run a 115 kV transmission line through Plymouth and Medina to a substation way to the west, when the “problem” was increased demand along 694 and Hwy. 55.  DOH!  What’s not to object to!  Here’s what they’d originally proposed:

Untitled

So after the project was withdrawn, without prejudice (they can re apply), they embarked on a “study” to determine options.  That was so long ago…

For ages, they’ve been saying they’re working on this report, and have been saying “it’s not finalized” (this is NOT rocket science, it’s only engineering and transmission planning and PR spin, what takes so long?  I guess it takes this long to come up with justifications and twist the data to make it look reasonable and needed?).

Compliance Filing_July 2015_20157-112044-01

Compliance Filing_April2016_20164-119743-01

From that April Compliance Filing, here’s their plan for this meeting:

OpenHousePlanIt would help to be able to review the “study.”  So I left a message with Xcel Energy at 612-330-6644, the number provided on the meeting notice (no name, but I presumed Tom Hillstrom is still in charge of this) asking for the study.  Because I got voicemail, I also called the attorney assigned to this:

herring_river

No “little birdie” here, and something’s fishy — no “study” is forthcoming to study because “it is not finalized yet.”  Sent an email to Plymouth@xcelenergy.com with the same request.  Oh please… it has been YEARS!  Pretty tough to argue for any of your “options” when you don’t have anything to back it up!

manurespreader2

My clients are on the Medina end of this, and each project blurb notes that “The existing 69 kV transmission line west of the Hollydale Substation will remain unchanged on all three of these alternatives”

Here’s the three they’re proposing:

View Alternative A Map (PDF)

View Alternative B Map (PDF)

View Alternative C Map (PDF)

Alternative C what looks to be the worst one of the three — to energize the existing 69 kV line through this Plymouth subdivision, much of which is directly over a walkway/bike path:

View Alternative C Map (PDF)

AlternativeCAnd once more with feeling, Xcel says that “The existing 69 kV transmission line west of the Hollydale Substation will remain unchanged on all three of these alternatives.”  GOOD!  But… will that hold true for the foreseeable future?  What’s the “Long Term Conceptual Plan” on the maps?  That’s why I want to see this study, because past experience with Xcel Energy is that once they propose something, they work it until they get it, one way or another.

From the Xcel “Plymouth Project” site:

elevatordownOnce again, Xcel Energy’s demand is down.  From Seeking Alpha’s Transcript of Xcel’s 1Q Earnings Call (click on the quote for the full transcript):

Turning to our sales results, although the economy in our region remains strong and we continue to add customers, our weather-adjusted electric sales declined by 0.3%. Further adjusting for the impact of an extra day of sales in the quarter due to leap year, our weather-adjusted electric sales actually declined by 1.4%. The decline in sales is largely driven by lower use per customer from energy efficiency, an increase in the number of multi-family units, the impact of distributed solar and the impact on consumption of lower oil and natural gas prices on some of our larger customers.

As a result, we have lowered our full-year electric sales growth assumption to 0.5% from 0.5% to 1% range. We continue to expect positive sales growth for the full year in all jurisdictions, due to customer growth as well as planned expansion from some of our larger customers.

After Xcel’s decreased demand last year, well, let’s just say I love it when this happens:

XcelPeakDemand2000-2015Or more specifically:

2015-Xcel Peak Demand Chart9,327?  I think not…

Remember how off Steve Rakow, Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, tried to pass off the most incredible chart?  This was during the CapX 2020 Certificate of Need when the record was showing there just wasn’t going to be that 2.49% peak demand increase that the project relied on.  Rakow was allowed to enter this bogus chart:

rakownapkindemandRakow tried to convince us, and did convince the ALJ and Commission, that Xcel Energy’s demand was going up, it was “just a blip” and demand would increase sufficiently high to justify CapX 2020 transmission!  What a crock…

Meanwhile, even Xcel Energy admits that demand remains down, and with this Earnings Call, dropped its projection.  As Xcel’s Ben Fowkes said recently, I think at the year end call, this is the “new normal.”

Are earnings calls transcripts entered into the rate case record?

XcelLogoBanner

The Public Utilities Commission has approved the Public Hearing Notice for the Xcel Energy Rate Case to be included in bills and publicized where ever.  We’ve got some notice to get prepared:

PublicHearingSchedule

Lo and behold, there’s one scheduled for Red Wing!!  Thanks for small favors…

What are the issues in the rate case?  Check the docket by going HERE TO PUC SEARCH DOCUMENTS PAGE, and search for docket 15-826.

A couple of things you might find interesting, I did, are some of the Direct Testimony filings.

2A2_Multi-Year Rate Plan – Burdick_201511-115332-02

2C2_Xmsn_Benson_201511-115335-03

In addition to whining about the grid being only 55% utilized (ummm, yes, we knew it wasn’t needed, but you went ahead and built it and now want us to pay through the nose, or other orifices, for your transmission for market export?  ppppppbbbbbbft!), here’s the issue — prices have fallen, the market is down, down, down, and we’re conserving, using less, and so now they want us to pay more to make up for it, oh.  Recap:  Xcel Energy wants us to pay for the transmission over our land for their private profit, they want us to pay more because we’re using less, and they want us to make up for their poor business decisions… yeah, great idea.

Figure2

This rate case and rate increase request is in large part transmission driven.  Xcel wants to move from cost based rates to formula rates, and they want to shift transmission costs from the Construction Work in Progress recovery that was part of the deal leading to the 2005 Ch 97 – Transmission Omnibus Bill from Hell, with transmission perks, CWIP and Transmission Only Companies.

And then there’s the e21 Initiative, Xcel Energy’s effort leading up to the 2015 legislative session, and it seems that with the exception of AARP, only those who signed on to the e21 “Consensus” are allowed to intervene.

e21_Initiative_Phase_I_Report_2014

Great…

KeepOut1

Lo and behold, there’s a public hearing scheduled for Red Wing!!  Thanks for small favors…  Mark the hearings on your calendar and show up.  Before hand, do a little reading!

KeepOut2