In late October, a BPEA member (henceforth referred to as “we”) called the Public Service Commission (PSC) to inquire about their process for approving new transmission projects and to ask some questions. We were called by Alice Hellman a day or two later. She was somewhat familiar with Xcel’s 2nd Circuit project in that they were working on one but since it has yet to be submitted to them, she did not have any details. We asked her about the “Discovery Request”, which we understood to be a way of getting some specific information about questions our group had posed to Xcel. We also asked about the Intervenor Compensation process.
Alice called me back the next day and left a message saying we should go to their website to learn more about the Intervenor Compensation. She went on to say that until the project gets submitted, the place for me to get more information about their process is on their website.
A few days later we received a call from Jim Lepinski, an electrical engineer with the PSC. We told him about our desire to have Xcel consider a solar option (with storage) for the increased generation need. He was very clear in saying that solar is not a viable option for our area and he did not see that ever getting approved by the PSC. Regarding all our questions to Xcel, he said that it was likely that the answers did not exist at this time. Much of what we were asking was information that would be included in the application for the project. He encouraged us to decide what we really wanted to achieve and then work cooperatively with Xcel to come up with a mutually acceptable project.
He explained to us how the PSC evaluates routes and shared some tables that they use when there is more than one route under consideration. We gave him the criteria for route selection that we received from Ellen and he said it represented what they use as criteria.
On October 29 we filled out a Public Records Request on the PSC website with a list of questions. The inquiries are below.
- Is a second circuit necessary and if so, why?
- How many complaints have been registered by citizens regarding the service provided by Xcel from the following areas: City of Washburn, City of Bayfield, Red Cliff, La Pointe, Town of Washburn, Town of Bayview, Town of Barksdale, Town of Eileen, and Town of Bayfield?
- In the past 10 years, how many outages have occurred in the above mentioned service areas on Xcel transmission lines?
- What was the duration of these outages?
- How many complaints were filed as a result of these outages?
- Has the PSC required Xcel to provide redundancy in its service to these areas?
- Does Xcel get “penalized” (fined) by the PSC for outages and their duration?
- Does the PSC have a policy/recommendation that says that Xcel should use existing right-of-ways whenever possible to meet demands for increased voltage and redundancy?
- Does the PSC approve of having double transmission lines on poles that go through difficult terrain to avoid the need for parallel poles?
On November 3rd we received a written response from Andrew Cardon, Assistant General Counsel (PSC), which basically stated that they are not required to provide answers to questions when the information does not exist.