Docket 2021-00369 Timeline and Documents
In the past three months I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about the PUC.
The Maine PUC case file (aka docket) 2021-00369 hosts all the documents related to the LS Power Gateway (aka ARG). This is the same docket that hosts the Longroad Energy King Pine project.
(updated 12/4/2023 with new items)
This post aims to be the cheat sheet for the entire docket. Reading the full public docket took me 10+ hours. Reading this post will take you 20 minutes.
It was August 21st 2023 when I first heard about this project, which aimed to destroy a landscape and views I’ve come to love. Like most residents of the target towns, I was denied a chance to provide testimony opposing the enacting legislation (LD 924) because, like everyone else, I didn’t know about it. I’m guessing nobody in Palermo knew where this project was planned until they received letters. The routes were revealed after the legislature voted on the project, a very questionable and unethical approach to development, and seemingly contradictory to the statute. “In addition to obtaining a certificate of public convenience and necessity, a high-impact electric transmission line may not be constructed anywhere in the State without first obtaining the approval of the Legislature..”
Logic says the CPCN is supposed to come first, which assures that the legislature is approving something that has been through some minimal level of technical oversight process. It also assures that the public gets a chance to provide testimony on infrastructure that will impact them. In this case, the statute has been interpreted in favor of the billion dollar out-of-state business, by grabbing onto the confusing use of the word first. A fair interpretation would rest on logic, but we all know the reality is, cases don’t get won on merits - they turn on technicalities….
In order to try to understand the project, I read the entire public docket. The docket itself is now 175 documents, many of which are 10-20 pages long. However, the public portion of the docket is around 57 documents (by my last count.)
As noted in prior posts: I’m not an expert; I’m just willing to take the time, use common sense, read the documents, and have a good memory for numbers.
The Maine PUC site is difficult to use - in order to download the docket items one needs to enable popups. Thus, for my own organization and study purposes I have renamed the files with logical names and uploaded them in sequential order. The documents are numbered as corresponds to their number on the docket, and the gaps in sequence indicate confidential, non-public documents.
Case number: 2021-00369
All documents below can be found on the documents tab of the Maine PUC website for this case.
11/16/2021 Letter Opening Docket - this is a mostly blank document that simply announces there will be a filing to follow.
11/29/2021 Order Issuing RFP - a one page document, the salient details being: “During its 2021 session, the Legislature enacted an Act To Require Prompt and Effective Use of the Renewable Energy Resources of Northern Maine, P.L. 2021, Chapter 380 (Act), which established the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program. The Act requires the Commission to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for: (1) the development and construction of a 345-kilovolt double circuit “generation connection line,” or a transmission line or lines of greater capacity, to connect renewable energy resources located in northern Maine with the electric grid operated by ISO-NE; and (2) the development and construction of renewable energy generation projects that are designed to connect to and transmit power across the transmission line or lines procured.”
11/29/2021 Request for Proposals for Energy Generation and Transmission Projects
This is the actual RFP. It is a 20 page PDF.
The items in the RFP relevant to stakeholders in farmland and forested areas relate directly to the originating law, called “The Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program (Program) established by P.L. 2021, Chapter 380, codified at 35-A M.R.S. § 3210-I (Act)”
The good thing is that this law includes these provisions:
Sec 1.1. D Promote energy equity with particular consideration given to the economic circumstances and opportunities in the State's socially vulnerable counties and communities. For the purposes of this paragraph, "socially vulnerable counties and communities" means those counties and communities in the State containing populations that are disproportionately burdened by existing social inequities or lack the capacity to withstand new or worsening burdens; and
Sec 1.2.C.2 (2) Favor use, where practicable, of existing utility and other rights-of-way and other existing transmission corridors in the construction of the line or lines described in this subsection; and
1/3/2022 Questions and Answers. The Q&A documents are cumulative, so it’s only necessary to read the last one, uploaded below.
In the questions and answers, some items of note:
Q44: Would a 320kV High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) project capable of transmission at least 1200MW of power be deemed to meet the requirement for “a 345 kilovolt (kV) double circuit “generation connection line” or a transmission line or lines of greater capacity”? In the 2016/2017 Maine Resource Integration Study, ISO-NE determined that a new 345kV double circuit tower line was needed to integrate 1,118MW of interconnection requests in Northern Maine. If a 320kV HVDC transmission line could transmit a greater capacity than 1,118MW would it achieve the requirement of the RFP for “a 345 kilovolt (kV) double circuit “generation connection line” or a transmission line or lines of greater capacity”?
A44: As described in the question, the 320kV HVDC project would appear to meet the requirement noted; however, a formal determination of project eligibility cannot be made in the context of this Q&A process. Please also see Q&A26.
2/1/2022 This document outlines what bidders should include in a Transmission Service Agreement (TSA).
2/1/2022 Instructions for submitting the bid security deposit ($100k for the transmission line). Interesting note- the security deposit goes to CMP or Versant?
Item 10a and 10b
2/7/2022 The Non-Disclosure Agreement and Protective Order No. 1
What is curious about the Protective Order is it appears that municipalities shall have access to Designated Confidential Information:
(Item 4) That, unless this Order is modified, access to Designated Confidential Information shall be limited to: (i) Commission members; (ii) Commission employees; (iii) Commission consultants hired to assist the Commission in this docket; and to the extent necessary as determined by the Commission (iv) the T&D utilities; (v) the Office of the Public Advocate; (vi) ISO-NE; (vii) FERC; (vii) the Department of Economic and Community Development; (viii) the Department of Environmental Protection; (ix) other federal, regional, state or local governmental or regulatory entities. Access to Designated Confidential Information shall be allowed for potential bidders for Generation Projects, but only to the extent set forth in paragraph 5 of this Order.
Our municipality explored getting the Designated Confidential information, which we estimated as about 100 documents. The answer from the PUC attorney was:
“Access to the information by a municipality would only be allowed, however, if there is a determination by the Commission that such access is necessary. There has been no such determination and thus we are not able to release any confidential information as per your request. A request for a Commission determination would have to be filed in the Commission’s procurement docket, which is 2021-00369, and the bidders would be provided an opportunity to respond to any such request.”
Thus, our municipality is still exploring how to make such a request.
The NDA is only for bidders; the federal, regional, state, and local governmental entities do not need to sign the NDA.
Item 12 & 17
The items stop incrementing as expected because secured documents are being filed.
2/23/2022. Updated Q&A log (again, cumulative, and adds 3 more questions and answers: 47,48, and 49)
Nothing struck me as terribly interesting. Possibly the non-incrementing numbers are because we are only seeing the publically available documents, and bid documents are numbered with the same system but hidden to the public.
Item 19a + 19b
1/23/2022 Procedural Order on Standard Contract - this is a “standard Contract for the Sale of Energy, Capacity, or Renewable Energy Credits from a Qualified Resource Pursuant to the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program”
The draft standard contract is a 35 page legal document. It envisions Versant and/or CMP as the T&D (which is defined in the contract as Versant or CMP; the acronym stands for Transmission & Distribution) and the Seller as the one offering “Energy/ Capacity/Renewable Energy Credits”
The contract does specify it will be a public record when finalized.
3/11/2022 Procedural Order regarding due date, a one page document changing the due date for Generation projects from May 1st, 2022, to May 2nd, 2022.
Items 66 & 69
More cumulative Q&A logs. Nothing of particular interest to the transmission corridor.
Items 71a and 71b
4/22/2022. Request by the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) to participate in review of bids
Aha! Very interesting. What is this Office of the Public Advocate? Their mission is “representing Maine utility consumers in any matter that is covered by the authority of the Public Utilities Commission.”
In these documents, we read about a protest made by the OPA to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in response to Maine Power Link LLC application for negotiated rate authority. Maine Power Link LLC was one of the losing bidders for the transmission line. It is a subsidiary of Con Edison.
These two documents point out that the line is oversized:
“Our concern in this respect is underscored by the fact that the proposed line (354 kV) [sic] is quite large, and almost certainly larger than needed in order to accommodate the renewable portfolio now contemplated by the relevant legislation.”
Version 10 of the cumulative Q&A. Nothing particularly interesting to note from a corridor perspective.
4/19/2022 Order on the Office of the Public Advocate’s Request
The PUC denied the request of the OPA to participate in the bid review?!?! Like, the Office of the Public Advocate, the very entity designed to protect the public from the overreach of the PUC, is being denied access to the bid process??? 😂
Item 75a + 75b
4/21/2022 Maine Power Link LLC response to the FERC protest by the OPA.
Getting interesting here: MPL, represented by Portland law firm PretiFlaherty, has posted their response argument to the Office of the Public Advocate’s protest of their request for negotiated rate authority. Frankly, since they did not win the transmission line bid, this matters to us only so far as background info on project sizing.
Item 105a + 105b
June 22, 2022 - the drama intensifies! FERC denies Maine Power Link LLC their request for negotiated rate authority, based on the protest of the OPA! The MEPUC invites public comment from other bidders.
7/26/2022 OPA comments on FERC order
Unsurprisingly, OPA agrees with FERC’s decision to deny Maine Power Link LLC negotiated rate authority.
Item 109a and 109b
7/27/2022 Maine Power Link LLC comments on the FERC order denying their request
For several years, MPL has sought to help unlock the extraordinary renewable energy resources available in northern Maine. Multiple renewable energy developers have unsuccessfully attempted for two decades to build transmission into northern Maine to unlock these resources. (page 1)
Note the cover letter: Jeffrey A. Thaler, Esq, first takes part in the unfolding drama. In July of 2022 representing Maine Power Link LLC, a ConEd subsidiary, in August of 2023 (at the Freedom LS Power Open House), representing LS Power Grid Maine LLC, a subsidiary of LS Power, and the supposed direct competitor of Maine Power Link LLC. How thoughtful they are to all play nice together and share legal representation! It’s convenient for everyone, and saves them money on new attorneys getting up to speed.
Items 138a + 138b
Item 138a is a 9 page letter describing the Massachusetts evaluation framework for working with the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Procurement. It refers to an MOU dated October 21st, 2022, which is item 140, below.
Massachusetts engagement in this process is based on An Act driving clean energy and offshort wind (Climate Act of 2022)
The only item of the document that potentially reads in our favor is that Section 82 states projects must “where possible, avoid, minimize, or mitigate, to the maximum extent practicable, environmental impacts, impacts on commercial and recreational fishing industries, and impacts to low-income populations.”
The attachment, however, is a 539 page PDF composed of:
ATTACHMENT 1: EXAMPLE TSA – EVERSOURCE/UNITIL
ATTACHMENT 2: EXAMPLE TSA – NATIONAL GRID
ATTACHMENT 3: EXAMPLE PPA (Hydroelectric) – EVERSOURCE/UNITIL
ATTACHMENT 4: EXAMPLE PPA (Hydroelectric) – NATIONAL GRID
ATTACHMENT 5: EXAMPLE PPA (Offshore Wind) – EVERSOURCE/UNITIL
ATTACHMENT 6: EXAMPLE PPA (Offshore Wind) – NATIONAL GRID
These have been redacted, but for someone who knows what they are looking at (i.e. not me) still a lot to see.
Item 139a, 139e, 139f
11/1/2022 - 139b, 139c, 139d were confidential and not viewable
From 139a: the PUC order approving term sheets- “this procurement is the first time the Commission has been called upon by Maine’s Legislature to procure a transmission project.” (page 7)
“all of the transmission proposals described the line as, to the extent possible, being located in or adjacent existing rights of way for transmission use.” (page 8)
This aligns with what Jason Nivens from LS Power told me on the phone in late August, which I summarized to the town as:
When was this corridor selected?
The request for proposal from the Maine PUC was released in early 2022. LS Power responded, also in 2022, with an estimate for the project cost/complexity and a route map.
Since then: the route has changed, because LS Power discovered that they could not cross public lands due to the 2021 NECEC project legislation that requires 2/3 majority vote of legislature to cross public land. This is where we end up with the route that impacts 250+ Palermo parcels directly.
LS Power believes there were two other proposals to the RFP.
The PUC is the source of the incorrect $2.9 billion number - their first press release on Oct 26 2022 stated “$2.88 billion”
PUC’s projected ratepayer benefit is based on the cost of energy less the forecasted wholesale value of that energy
Essentially, the PUC is saying that by adding the King Pine wind generator to the energy producing pool, we are increasing supply, which will decrease costs.
139e LS Power Term Sheet (redacted)
Base Option (selected by PUC)
Substation #1 Northern Terminus, southern Aroostook County
Double circuit transmission line to Pittsfield substation
Substation #2 new 345 kv Pittsfield substation
two single circuit transmission lines from Pittsfield to Coopers Mills
new +- 200 MVAR static synchronous compensator near Coopers Mills
two single circuit transmission lines between Coopers Mills and Maine Yankee existing substation (? why is this the first time we are hearing about this corridor?)
In Feb 2022, 9 months before being selected, LS Power filed ETU connection request with ISO-NE for 1200 MW injection at new Pittsfield substation - and was assigned queue position.
30 year term, price at cod, $xx/kW-month; 1% per year escalator (Yearly price then starts at $94 million)
Financial assurance (earnest money) $25 million, delivered to the Utilities (CMP & Versant?)
139f Longroad Term Sheet (redacted)
Flat Energy Price (selected by PUC)
179 5.6 MW turbines
net annual energy production up to 3,182,611 MWh (I think that means average production is 363 MW, i.e. 3,182,611 MWh / 365 days / 24 hours
Financial assurance $40.00 per kW (is that $40 million if the PUC selected 1000MW?)
11/2/2022 Massachusetts and Maine Memorandum of Understanding
The document outlining the understanding between Maine and Mass in order to cost-share on the line.
The pricing committment offered by bidders was binding through June 30, 2023, long since expired.
12/30/2022 Massachusetts Beneficial Determination
We first get wind of the issue where Mass will only commit to 20 year terms (the shelf life of a wind turbine) and the transmission line is a 30 year term, so things get a little messy. Also, Mass wants binding MOU with enforceable milestone committments.
1/27/2023 A predictable letter of support from the Maine Governor’s Energy Office
1/30/23 Comments from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce
Supportive comments, but include the strange note:
However, there is one more procedural step we must take as a state to make these projects a reality. The Maine PUC must formally and finally approve these projects by instructing our two utilities, Central Maine Power and Versant Power, to enter into contracts for 60% of the project’s benefits and costs.
1/30/2023 Comments from the OPA
Includes the warning note:
The Commonwealth's participation is a major milestone for Maine to be able to import the benefits of our clean energy transition, while also exporting some of the associated costs. Notably, Massachusetts' participation in helping to fund these projects expires on February 28, 2023 should the Maine PUC not finalize contracts for Maine's participation in these projects.
2/3/2023 Order Regarding Massachusetts Determination
The PUC acknowledges that legislation is directing them to no longer be impartial, but rather:
Specifically, the statute directs the Commission to “[r]ecognize that, in advancing the renewable energy and climate policies and goals of the State, the near-term development of the transmission and other infrastructure necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is in the public interest.” Id. § 3210-I(1)(E).
i.e. “Ye shall determine this is in public interest come hell or high water!”
Also, Longroad and LS Power are directed to provide monthly reporting to the PUC on:
finding additional entities interested in taking on output from King Pine
pursue opportunities for regional funding or federal funding for these projects
Are we to read into this that the project is a little pricey - and, as will be discovered, extremely unpopular with locals - and PUC has cold feet, never having done this scale of procurement before?
3/8/2023 Mass Supplemental Determination
Massachusetts would also like monthly reporting.
5/1/2023 Procedural Order Requesting Comments
This is interesting - it is from a different docket (2023-00054) and requests comments on the frequency of negative electricity pricing in Maine. Like the concept of a negative interest rate, if there is a surplus of electricity (due to the unpredictable patterns of wind and sun energy) pricing on the wholesale market might go negative. This document includes the gems:
How often does negative pricing occur in Maine?
Geographically,where does negative pricing most often occur?
What is the typical duration of periods of negative pricing?
What is the benefit to ratepayers of the generally suppressed prices caused by negative prices and how does it compare to the cost to ratepayers of paying fixed energy prices under the PPAs that the Commission has approved?
Of course, like all good projects in the public interest, the responses are designated confidential information.
Items 155a + 155b
5/2/2023 Versant Letter and Suggested Commercial Terms
Okay, getting interesting here. Versant writes a letter that reads as though they are a little miffed about this project, and provides some documentation of what they suggest should be included in any commercial contract. Some quotes:
We also understand that the Commission may consider the term sheets approved for LS Power and Longroad Energy to be binding. Versant does not have access to those confidential term sheets, is not invited to the negotiating table, and has not seen any draft contracts. We remain willing to participate in this process. In the meantime, we feel it is important to share some of our key thoughts regarding the minimal commercial terms we believe should be addressed in the contracts.
We continue to have concerns about putting our customers or the Company at risk for costs and liabilities on a project that appears to be worth many multiples of Versant’s entire rate base.
Thankfully, Versant points out that really, ratepayers should only be obligated if power is actually being delivered along that transmission line. duh.
5/9/2023 Versant Request from Relief from Submission Requirement
Versant reiterates that they cannot be expected to sign a 30 year contract in less than two months for which they have not had access to negotiations, term sheets, or other minor details.
5/11/2023 Versant Letter on Docket Document Visibility
Versant notes that the two documents (155a and 155b above) needed to be moved to the public docket for everyone to see them.
6/28/2023 CMP request for waiver
(note: this is a week after letters were sent to impacted landowners)
Like Versant, CMP has been dis-included from negotiations till this point and is not psyched about signing a 30 year contract they didn’t get a say on:
CMP expressed its willingness to participate in the process and sought to be directly involved in the negotiations of the terms of the TSA and PPA. At that time, Commission Staff indicated it would take the lead on negotiating the substance of the TSA and PPA and would circulate concept draft agreements in the future.
Item 162a + 162b
6/30/2023 Versant Response to Order Number 3
On May 9, 2023, Versant submitted a Request for Relief from Submission Requirement [item 156], asking the Commission to waive Order No. 3 in its February 3, 2023, because the T&D Utilities had neither been part of the negotiation process nor had access to the latest drafts contracts. The Commission has not yet responded to Versant’s Request for Relief.
In the absence of a waiver, Versant responds to Order No. 3 by restating its position that the T&D Utilities are unable to provide the Commission with final versions of the contracts at this time because the T&D Utilities have not been involved in the drafting process despite offers and inquiries with Commission staff, and do not possess any draft or final versions of the contracts.
6/30/2023 CMP Response to Order No. 3
Almost the same language as the Versant response above.
Three full months pass with no public activity on the docket, and 4 private documents filed. During this period of time, the impacted public first hears that 400+ parcels are targeted for eminent domain taking, across some of the best farmland in the state, and of course, in tiny towns with almost no paid staff, lower-income residents, and minimal ability to organize. There’s a lot of reasons this does not happen in rich coastal towns. Can you imagine the uproar in Cape Elizabeth if someone suggested installing 150 foot tall high voltage power lines? They’d probably even be talking about risks of childhood cancers. What would happen if someone tried to put a substation in Bar Harbor? It would end up looking like the most beautiful horse barn you’ve ever seen. Better to continue to target the rural folk.
10/8/2023 Petition for Intervenor Status from Preserve Rural Maine
This is a 20 page document that outlines our objections to the project at that point in time, and describes the reality that neighboring states are doing these projects underground.
As with many instances of eminent domain use, LS Power’s application of this unique tool would impact poorer citizens more substantially than others.
The proposed route has a substantive impact on food security and farms, a fact that presents problems at both a constitutional and practical level.
The impact of above-ground aerial high-voltage transmission lines (HVTL’s) on real estate values and tourism is also significant.
The route proposed by LS Power would have a devastating impact on rural cultures, society, and values.
The Daymark study produced by LS Power is structured around the predicted rising cost of natural gas. However, there is nothing in the history of natural gas pricing to indicate that is a fair prediction.
Moreover, the LS Power proposal requires that payments might begin prior to the King Pine wind farm coming online. How can paying $94 million a year, or more, for energy that is not being transmitted be a net benefit to the Maine people?
With respect to CO2 emission goals, Maine has already met its 2030 and 2040 goals for CO2 associated with the electricity generation sector.19 This accomplishment represents a 56% reduction in CO2, whereas statutory calls for a 45% reduction by Jan 1, 2030.
10/13/2023 Denial Letter on Petition to Intervene
On 10/16/2023 (3 days after the denial), I was at the Maine State Chamber Energy Conference, where PUC commissioner Phil Bartlett was a keynote speaker. Twice in his fifteen minute speech he mentioned the importance of early engagement with impacted communities - one business day after denying an intervenor petition from said communities.
Intervention is a mechanism for allowing participation in adjudicatory proceedings before the Commission, as outlined in section 8 of Chapter 110 of the Commission’s rules, governing practice and procedure before the Commission. As described above, however, rather than being adjudicatory in nature, this proceeding is a legislatively mandated procurement process…
10/30/2023 Procedural Order on TSA
The tone of this letter indicates that the negotiation problems are becoming…a problem.
In particular, there appear to be significant differences both among the parties and with Commission Staff regarding key terms of the TSA. These differences remain notwithstanding months of discussion, negotiation, and related efforts to resolve them. Therefore, in order to allow the Commission to determine what, if any TSA with LS Power may be approved, LS is directed to review the draft TSA prepared by Commission Staff (Staff TSA) and supplied to LS and the T&D utilities via email, and provide (in “track changes” format to that TSA) all modifications LS would require to execute the Staff TSA.
eNGO letter supportive of successful negotiations.
eNGO appears to refer to the combined group of quasi-environmental organizations (i.e. hypocrisy of opposing NECEC, but supportive of ARG) - Acadia, Conservation Law Foundation, Maine Audobon, NRCM
11/20/2023 Procedural Order Granting Extension
PUC gives Versant and CMP another 3 days to respond to LS Power’s transmission service agreement proposal.
As grounds for their request, CMP and Versant point to: (1) the observance of Veteran’s Day; (2) the size of LS Power’s submission; and (3) the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
A fascinating letter from Versant suggesting that negotiations are doing poorly and LS Power has offered “contract terms and requirements that are out of alignment with reasonable market practice and Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) precedent.”
That’s it for now.
I’ll continue to update as more items are added.