The proposed LS Power Transmission Corridor needs to be underground.
Stop Gateway Grid: Protect Maine Farmland by Burying the Line.
The letter below was posted to the Maine Public Utilities Commission Public Comment Board on 7/31/2023. We believe it was first posted and written by Steven Ingalls. Because the MEPUC website is notoriously difficult to use (I was unable to download the letter from several browsers, as were others) I am reposting the letter in its entirety here:
Our Position: Future corridors should be buried.
Why aren’t the legislators of Maine protecting our natural landscapes, farmlands, and forests by demanding corridors be buried?
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The Letter below was uploaded as Public Comment to the Maine PUC on 7/31/23.
LS Power Grid Maine, LLC – “the Developer”
16150 Main Circle Drive Suite 310
Chesterfield, MO 63017
10 Plaza Dr. Suite 203
Scarborough, ME 04074 – “the Generator”
Preliminary recommendations for conditions of any approval of the Aroostook Renewable Gateway Project - “the Project”:
1. Developer must provide clear and convincing evidence to the Maine PUC and DEP that it is not practicable to a) use a designated utility corridor (i.e. the existing utility corridor running from Lincoln, Orrington, Dixmont/Detroit, Benton to Coopers Mills) or b) an abandoned railroad corridor owned or controlled by Maine DOT (i.e. use or cross the Maine DOT abandoned railroad line running from Dover Foxcroft to Newport), or c) use or cross other public lands, including but not limited to the portion of Interstate 395 under construction from Eddington to Brewer, Interstate 95 Lincoln to Farmingdale or Rt 2 Lincoln to Rt 202 Albion corridor, or some other combination that may also entail partial use of public land and an existing utility corridor (whether above and/or underground), to meet the needs of the proposed Project. Clear and convincing evidence that it is not practicable is not satisfied without the Project first demonstrating to the Maine PUC and DEP that there are no possible (practicable to be left for the public, Maine PUC, DEP and Legislature judgment) alternative routes that might include some form of use of any public land. If there are any such possible routes that include public land, then the Project must present them and ask the Maine Legislature to vote to approve or deny such public land use, as vote may be required by Maine State Law Title 35-A Section 3132. The Developer should also present a cost/benefit analysis of various proposed routes to the House Energy, Utility and Technology Committee so that an in depth discussion/review can be had by those who know Maine best and have a long term vested interest in the route selected.
a. Also of particularly important note is that National Grid, Citizens Energy Corp and Northeastern Vermont Energy Association are partnering and currently proposing to construct what is known as the “Twin State Clean Energy Link” between Canada and the U.S., with a 211 mile 1,200 kWh transmission line that will run through Vermont and New Hampshire. This line will utilize existing State highways to run a new line underground (including under the Connecticut River) approximately 75 miles in Vermont and New Hampshire until it reaches an existing utility corridor in New Hampshire, at which point it will go above ground. The project also includes approximately 110 miles of upgrades to existing AC overhead transmission infrastructure. This line is approximately 71 miles longer than the proposed approximate 140 miles of this Project, yet the estimated cost is approximately $2 billion for the Twin State Clean Energy Link, as compared to $2.9 billion for the proposed transmission line portion of this Project. This brings into question four fundamental questions/issues:
i. Why is the proposed transmission line portion of the Project estimated to cost nearly $900 million more, then the longer, partially underground Twin State Clean Energy Link project, when considering the Project transmission line is a shorter line that is all above ground? Perhaps part of the answer is with the need to build two new substations for the Project, one proposed in Glenwood Plantation and the other in the Dixmont/Detroit areas, whereas the Twin State Clean Energy Link project only requires one proposed substation in Londonderry NH? This cost difference should be looked into closer to be able to answer this question to the public, ratepayers and to officials who will be approving and paying for this Project
ii. Why isn’t the proposed transmission line portion of the Project proposing to use underground installation along any portion of the new corridor portion of this Project, similar to the Twin State Clean Energy Link project, as opposed to using the proposed above ground installation the entire length? The underground installation method would likely be less impactful to the residents in the host communities where the new corridor portion of the Project would be located. It mitigates concerns around negative visual/scenic impact, negative market value of adjacent properties, eliminates concerns about impacts to the transmission towers and lines from snow/ice/wind/trees falling, minimizes/eliminates the negative impact to wildlife on the ground or especially in flight, eliminates the ability of birds to nest in the towers which can cause damage to the transmission line, reduces chances of wildfires originated by the transmission line and reduces potential negative health effects of EMF, EMI and EMR.
iii. Why isn’t the proposed transmission line portion of the Project proposing to lease/use State Highways and/or existing utility corridors for the entirety of the new corridor portion of the Project, similar to the Twin State Clean Energy Link project, as opposed to purchasing/eminent domain taking of private land for the ROW for the new corridor portion of the Project? The State Highway and/or existing utility corridor method, inclusive of an underground installation, would likely further reduce the negative impacts to private landowners and communities that the new corridor portion of the Project would be located in, including the loss of use of the ROW on private land.
iv. It needs to be determined by all approving agencies whether this Project, as now presented to the public, is in the best interest of the using and consuming public (ratepayers) and the host communities, is the most cost-effective proposal (not necessarily the cheapest), the most practicable corridor route (practicable should be left to the judgment of the public, Maine PUC, DEP and Legislature and does not mean excluding needing to ask the Legislature to vote on using public land) and will provide the best available reduction in electricity costs for Maine ratepayers (at the moment the proposed monthly reduction in cost to a residential rate payer is de minimis at best), or if other alternatives that are similar to the Twin State Clean Energy Link in design and cost would be a better alternative? As Senate President Troy Jackson was quoted in the following Spectrum New article: “I understand people’s concerns, I do. I wouldn’t want anything jammed through. If something like this was going through my backyard, I would be concerned also. This was not something we wrote in stone” He also described the project as being in the works for two years and going through “a very open process”. This last comment is very debatable since the proposed route was clearly known but not disclosed to the Legislature before their vote on or about June 22, 2023. Title 35-A, §3132: Construction of transmission lines prohibited without prior order of the commission (mainelegislature.org), Title 35-A, §3210-I: Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program (mainelegislature.org), STATE OF MAINE (lspgridmaine.com), FINAL2021UtilAcmdnRules4-22-21.pdf (maine.gov), Maps - MaineDOT, Twin States Clean Energy Link | For a Greener New England Grid, LS Power, Longroad Energy win contracts for Maine transmission line, 1,000-MW King Pine wind farm | Utility Dive, New power line proposal worries some in the potential path (spectrumlocalnews.com)
2. Agreement by Project that for a minimum of 20 years from the date of first commercial operations, the source of electricity for the Project will be no less than 80% renewable energy, as defined by the State of Maine, and such renewable energy will be generated in the State of Maine. This is in order to assist the State of Maine in achieving its clean energy goal of 80% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050, and also the spirit of the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program that such renewable energy be generated in Northern Maine. Unless prohibited by contract or regulation it will be of an unrestricted bi-directional voltage flow design constructed for 1,200 MW/345 kV capacity and connected to the ISO New England grid and for future connection to Northern Maine Independent System Administrator.
3. Developer/Generator will provide the host communities with terms and conditions that are generally no less favorable in scope than the NECEC project (CMP Corridor) has provided NECEC: New England Clean Energy Connect (necleanenergyconnect.org)
4. Project will pay annual real estate and excise taxes and personal property taxes to each host community based upon the value of the land, improvements and personal property as determined by the local tax assessor (similar to NECEC project). Project will provide an estimate of those taxes to each host community prior to applying for any permits with a host community
5. Developer will pay building permit fees to each host community at time of issuance. In order to set expectations, construction of the Project is expected to be substantially completed no later than two years from the start of construction in the community. A host community may require the Developer to apply for an extension of the building permit if the Project is not substantially completed in the host community within a prescribed timeframe. (Note Developer is estimating an approximate one and a half year construction time line on their website, with a construction start date of early 2017 and a in-service date of mid 2018)
6. In part, a) in acknowledgment of the nominal financial benefit that the Developer estimates that Maine residential ratepayers will be saving ($2.33 per month for a 500 kWh residential user), and recognizing that 40% of the benefit of the electricity generated by the Project is expected to go to Massachusetts, b) in recognition that the State of Maine and the NECEC project negotiated and agreed to precedent setting mitigation terms (NECEC: New England Clean Energy Connect (necleanenergyconnect.org), and c) for the equitable treatment of the host communities, host counties and the State of Maine as a result of the above mentioned precedent setting mitigation terms, the Developer/Generator will agree to pay the following Community Benefits Package:
a. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Host Community Impact Fund, of an amount to be determined, to each host community. Fee to be proportionally divided and distributed amongst the host communities based upon a percentage of the number of miles the Project ROW is in the host community as compared to the total miles of the Project ROW. Fund to be paid prior to the start of construction in each host community (similar to NECEC project)
b. Developer/Generator to contribute to a New Utility Corridor Impact Fund, in an amount to be determined, to each host community. Fee to be calculated based on the number of new transmission towers in each host community that are located within a new utility corridor, and excludes those co-located within an existing utility corridor. Fund to be amortized/paid over the course of no greater than 20 years.
c. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Tribal Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by the State of Maine Indian Trial Commission, for the benefit of the tribal communities located within each county where the host communities are located. Tribal Fund contribution to be one lump sum paid prior to the start of construction of the Project (similar to NECEC project)
d. Developer/Generator to contribute to an Education Grant Fund to each host community, in an amount to be determined, for the benefit of the public school district, including each public technical school district, of each host community. Education Grant fund to be in an amount to be determined, will be proportionally divided and distributed amongst the host communities based upon a percentage of the number of miles the Project ROW is in the host community as compared to the total miles of the Project ROW. Education fund contribution to be one lump sum paid prior to the start of construction of the Project in each host community (similar to NECEC project)
e. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Consumer Electric Rate Relief Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by the Maine PUC for electric rate relief credits for all Maine residents (inclusive of low income customers). In calculating this, favorable consideration to be given to the Developer based upon the $2.33 per month estimated savings that a Maine residential rate payer, using 500 kWh per month will save per the Developers estimate, offset by what the Maine PUC independently estimates the savings to a Maine residential rate payer, using 500 kWh per month will save. (I.e. if the Maine PUC finds that the actual savings will be less than say $2.33 per month, then the difference will be used to help determine the minimum Consumer Electric Rate Relief Fund contributed). Fee to be amortized/paid over the course of no greater than 20 years (NECEC project has a 40 year payment term but Massachusetts is only committing to a 20 year cash flow to the Aroostook Renewable Gateway Project)
f. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Energy Efficiency Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by Efficiency Maine to help provide for energy incentive programs (i.e. appliance, lighting, heating/cooling equipment, home energy improvements) for the benefit of all residents in each county where the host communities are located (similar to the Heat Pump Fund of the NECEC project)
g. Developer/Generator to contribute to an EV Charging Station and EV Rebate Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by Efficiency Maine to help provide for electric vehicle (EV) fast charging stations and EV purchase rebates each county where a host community is located. Fee to be paid prior to the start of construction of the Project (similar to NECEC project)
h. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Affordable Housing Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by the Maine Housing for helping to support energy efficient affordable housing in each county where the host communities are located. Fee to be paid prior to the start of construction of the Project (this is in substitution of the Low Income Customer Fund of the NECEC project)
i. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Technology Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) to help provide for the installation of broadband internet and digital equity as defined by MCA, for the benefit of all residents in Maine. Fee to be paid prior to the start of construction of the Project. Project to also include installation of fiber optic cable (optical ground wire) of a capacity and design to be determined, in part by the MCA, for access for the Developer/Generator and for ISP’s (similar to NECEC project). Project to also include access to allow for co-location of cellular and fixed wireless access (FWA) internet installation on towers
j. Developer/Generator to contribute to a Economic Development and Tourism Fund, in an amount to be determined, to be established and administered by the State of Maine Office of Economic Development and Tourism for the benefit of each county where the host communities are located (similar to NECEC project)
k. Developer/Generator to Purchase and Preserve land of an area equal to, or greater, in size to the area that the Developer will clear for the Project ROW. Areas preserved will be located within each county that the Project will be located in and will be approximately proportionate in size to the area cleared in each county. The preserved area will continue to pay local real estate taxes by the Project/landowner and will be available for all recreational, ATV/Snowmobile and hunting/fishing use by the general public at no charge. Developer will show evidence of the purchase and conservation of such land prior to the start of construction of the Project (similar to NECEC project)
l. Project will permit recreational usage, including by ATV and snowmobiles, along any new corridor Project ROW. Project to allow the State, as well as local ATV/snowmobile clubs, to maintain a trail for ATV’s and snowmobiles. Project will not post no trespassing, hunting/fishing signs, except as may be required by State or Federal authorities (similar to NECEC project)
7. Developer must provide evidence of a Project & Performance Bond to the benefit of each host community and the State, prior to construction in the host community, of an amount sufficient to satisfy the cost of the completion of the Project, for any damage to public infrastructure caused by the Developer, and for restoration of the disturbed area, if the Project is not finally completed within three years from the first date of the start of construction (such three year final completion date currently would be early 2030 based upon the current projected construction start date of early 2027)
8. Given among other things:
a. The nearly unprecedented size and scope of the proposed new utility corridor (as opposed to use of an existing utility corridor) in the State of Maine in recent times
b. The significant lack of use of an existing utility corridor that the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program Act requires to the Developer to favor where practicable and also what the Maine Office of Public Advocate would generally expect (Title 35-A, §3210-I: Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program (mainelegislature.org), Transmission | Maine Office of Public Advocate
c. The precedent set by the Maine DEP for the development of Segment 1 of the NECEC corridor, which is the Segment that is the new utility corridor for that project
d. The Developer not offering an alternative ROW solution through portions of Corinth, Levant and Stetson that would avoid these communities or mitigate the impact to these communities, as opposed to most other communities where a new utility corridor is proposed with alternative ROW options. This lack of alternative routes in these small, rural, lower income communities is inequitable and creates an unavoidable and unfair disparate treatment to these communities. These communities have no reasonable ability to select an alternative route that might avoid the community, or lower the impact to the community. This is in conflict with the spirit of Environmental Justice as defined in “An Act to Implement Recommendations Regarding the Incorporation of Equity Considerations in Regulatory Decision Making” getPDF.asp (mainelegislature.org)
The Developer will:
1. Adjacent Property Owner Impact fee payment, of an amount to be determined. The Developer/Generator to pay Maine PUC or Maine Office of Public Advocate to hire an independent qualified appraisal study to determine how much the average overall negative monetary impact to the market value of those properties, within a certain distances determined by the study, will be from the Project upon completion. Fee based upon a percentage of each property owners total real estate valuation as determined by the Town in the year construction begins. Fee to be paid prior to the start of construction of the Project in each host community. (Power Lines and Property Values: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on JSTOR)
2. Design the Project to be no less restrictive than the requirements by State and Federal authorities of the NECEC project Segment 1, including but not limited to the Maine DEP order dated May 11, 2020 LICENSE REVIEW ROUTING SHEET (maine.gov), in areas, at a minimum, where a new utility corridor is being established. This includes:
a. Limitations on the cleared width of the ROW within any new corridor Project ROW of no greater than 54’, except in areas immediately adjacent to a tower where a wider width is allowed, strictly to accommodate only a guy wire for that tower. Wider cleared ROW widths may be approved by each host community (i.e. wider widths for solar panel and energy storage installations or for substation infrastructure)
b. Tower Design to mitigate undue adverse impact to surrounding visual and scenic character, towers must be designed and sited to fit harmoniously with their surroundings. In order to provide for: 1) a narrower ROW width requirement, 2) less conductor sag, 3) less need for guy wires, 4) less visual/scenic and wildlife impact, 5) superior reliability under extreme conditions, 6) future design flexibility, 7) improved safety (inclusive of less vandalism) (see “engrxiv.org” regarding advantages of monopoles), 8) discourage the ability of birds to easily nest on the towers, Developer to consider towers of a monopole (non-lattice style) design with non-reflective flat neutral color steel construction within any new corridor Project ROW, (as opposed to a lattice style design in the double circuit sections). Developer to provide a visual impact assessment (VIA) of the lattice style versus monopole style tower throughout the double circuit sections.
c. Conductors will be of a non-reflective and low noise emitting design within any new corridor Project ROW, with noise level criteria of no greater of 40 decibels. noise-and-transmission-lines.pdf (atco.com)
d. Project will not apply herbicides and pesticides to the Project ROW, whether cleared or uncleared land in any new corridor Project ROW (similar to Segment 1 of NECEC project)
e. Use all appropriate prudent avoidance measures to ensure that the overall host community resident’s health and environmental impact, both short and long term, from the Project will be minimized in any new corridor Project ROW. This includes taking all appropriate prudent avoidance measures to mitigate residents exposure from the potential health effects of electromagnetic interference, radiation and fields and radiation (EMI, EMR and EMF), as well as the potential impact of EMI and EMF on personal electronic devices. This will include, at a minimum, 1) setbacks from the centerline of the tower, of a minimum of the greater of 300’ or 2.5x the height of the nearby tower, from any neighboring inhabitable structure, 2) reducing conductor spacing to reduce EMF, 3) EMF and EMR modeling study to determine the impact to the surrounding area and that levels of EMF and EMR, generated by the Project, must a) demonstrate that Project will not expose residents of an inhabitable structure to an electric field strength greater than 1.6 kV/m or a magnetic field of greater than 200 mG at the edge of the transmission ROW (State of New York standards) or lower limits that may be set by the State of Maine DHHS 4) study must further show that Project will not expose resident of an inhabitable structure to nonionizing radiation levels of greater than as allowed by U.S. OSHA 1910.97 Nonionizing Radiation standards, or lower limits that may be set by the State of Maine DHHS and 4) whatever additional measures that can be taken to mitigate the impact on the surrounding area. Power Lines & EMF: What Minimum Distance Is Safe? - Beat EMF, Electromagnetic Fields Fact Sheet (iastate.edu), EMF-Handout-with-links.pdf (lspgridnewyork.com), 1910.97 - Nonionizing radiation. | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)
f. Install available technology to proactively detect and prevent the Project from starting a fire, including a wildfire, throughout the entire length of the Project ROW. This includes sensors to detect voltage irregularities, shut off switching, sensors to detect smoke and fire and artificial intelligence (AI) to determine how a wildfire might spread, so as to advise firefighting officials
g. Project to allow for the installation of ground mount solar panels and energy storage generation facilities within the any new corridor Project ROW where permitted, with access for the distribution of the power generated by the solar panels and energy storage to the same power grid as the Project
h. Project will provide, at a minimum of semi-annual frequency, and at such other times as requested/stipulated by the host community, solid waste monitoring and solid waste collection on any new corridor Project ROW
i. Project will maintain any new corridor Project ROW consistent with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry recommendations for the maintenance of woodlands including the proper removal of trees & vegetation that have been cut down during construction, so as to minimize risk of a wildfire, for the health & care of the remaining woodlands and for the benefit of wildlife habitat Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
j. Developer agrees that to allow for the peaceful enjoyment of the host community residents, that the hours of construction operation for the Project will be during daylight hours only and no greater than 7AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday and 9 AM to 3 PM Saturday, and will exclude all Sundays and all federal holidays (including federal holidays that fall on a Sunday but recognized on a Monday), unless provided for otherwise by a host community. Developer will use all reasonable means to control, mitigate & minimize noise, artificial lighting, erosion and dust during and after construction created by the Project along the entire Project ROW and will be subject to road posting restrictions during the Spring mud season
k. Developer/Generator, to the extent commercially reasonably available, will use businesses/contractors/employees who are located in/residents of the State of Maine (similar to NECEC project)
l. Project to offer an alternate proposed route that would:
· At a minimum, propose using the existing utility corridor(s) between Lincoln and Coopers Mills. In order to minimize the negative impact of the Project through the more congested areas between the Lincoln substation and Coopers Mills substation, the Project could consider using underground alternatives as needed, including an alternative of utilizing the new Interstate 395 corridor extension that is under construction in the Eddington to Brewer area. See Exhibit A which depicts the entire existing corridor between Glenwood and Coopers Mills via Orrington and Benton, Exhibit B which depicts the area between the Cardville substation and the Orrington substation. Exhibit C depicts an alternative route between Glenwood and Orrington that utilizes the new Interstate 395 corridor extension that is under construction, which would bypass the more congested portion of the existing corridor that runs through Eddington to Brewer. Exhibit D depicts the area between the Orrington substation and Benton substation, with a proposed new substation in Dixmont/Detroit along this corridor. I-395-Route 9 Connector Project | MaineDOT
9. Developer agrees that should an adjacent property private water supply owner, along any new corridor Project ROW, suspect that their private water supply has been destroyed or rendered unfit for human consumption by the Project, within three years of the construction completion date, that the Developer will work with adjacent property owner to resolve this in a manner reasonably consistent with the spirit of the recently passed Maine law entitled “An Act Regarding Water Testing Related to Storage Facilities” getPDF.asp (maine.gov). The spirit being that the procedures of investigation and recourse of an adjacent property owner against the Project will be similar to the investigation and recourse they would have against the actions of a public entity (MDOT)
10. Developer/Generator will comply with all additional conditions as may be required by any Local, State and Federal authorities (similar to NECEC project)
For illustration, the NECEC project has agreed to contribute the following funds:
1. Economic Development and Tourism - $10.5 million
2. Education Fund - $6 million
3. Tribal Benefits - $3 million
4. Broadband Access - $15 million
5. Low Income Rate Relief - $50 million
6. Consumer Rate Relief - $140 million (payable over 40 years)
7. EV Infrastructure and Rebate Support - $15 million
8. Heat Pump Fund - $15 million
9. Securitization to accelerate the receipt of benefits - $1 million
10. Clean Renewable Power Studies - $2.5 million
11. Land Preservation – nearly 43,000 acres
Total of the above, excluding Land Preservation acreage and Consumer Rate Relief, which is amortized over 40 years, is $118 million. Consumer Electric Rate Relief of $140 million amortized over 40 years equals $3.5 million per year. It is acknowledged that at inception the power generated from the NECEC project is intended to be 100% used by residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts whereas the Aroostook Renewable Gateway project is intended to be split with 60% used by residents of the State of Maine and 40% by residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Arguably the Developer/Generator should only contribute 40% of the above costs to fairly balance the distinction that the State of Maine residents are receiving 60% of the benefits of this Project. In that 60/40 example the Developer/Generator would contribute 40% of $118 million, which is $47.2 million, in one- time NECEC type fees & grants, plus 40% of $140 million, which is $56 million paid over 20 years for Consumer Electric Rate Relief. This would total $103.2 million.
Exhibit A - Existing Utility Corridor Glenwood to Coopers Mills
Exhibit B – Existing Utility Corridor Cardville to Orrington
Exhibit C – Existing Utility Corridor Cardville to Orrington using new Rt 395 extension
Exhibit D – Existing Corridor Orrington to Benton
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