Q: Why has NPPD restarted its electric transmission line project to provide electric energy for TransCanada’s Keystone XL crude oil pipeline?
A: In July 2013, TransCanada asked NPPD and those of our wholesale customers who may be impacted to restart the process to site, design and build the necessary 115,000-volt electric transmission line facilities to serve TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. NPPD’s transmission line project had been placed on hold for approximately two years as TransCanada re-routed its pipeline through Nebraska. Although TransCanada is still awaiting a Presidential Permit from the U.S. State Department, they have requested NPPD to progress with line routing and long lead-time activities so a proposed electric transmission line in-service date of June 2015 can be met.
It should be noted that before halting its transmission line project preparations in 2011, also at TransCanada’s request, NPPD had done considerable work on the project, including line routing open houses and a public hearing. Those costs will be recovered via the new contract executed in September. (See contracts below)
Q: What actions has the NPPD Board of Directors approved?
A: In August 2013, the NPPD Board unanimously approved a pair of resolutions to restart NPPD’s electric transmission line segment project(s) needed to serve TransCanada’s proposed new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and to contractually obligate TransCanada to pay all costs for the electric transmission line project, including associated facilities, e.g., substations. In September 2013, the Board approved the related projects as part of NPPD’s 2013 Capital Additions Budget. TransCanada, by contract, will reimburse NPPD for all expenses incurred to build electric infrastructure to serve the pipeline, plus an administrative fee and interest, regardless of whether the pipeline project is approved by the federal government.
Q: Why restart now before TransCanada has obtained the necessary permits to begin work in Nebraska?
A: NPPD management is restarting the process to meet TransCanada’s most recent required in-service date of June 2015. Due to long lead-time activities, line routing and planning must take place now. Work will include NPPD’s public involvement process, design, survey and engineering, and easement acquisition. No construction of power lines will take place until TransCanada receives its permit.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Q: What is the 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline?
A: NPPD’s 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline will involve construction of three new 115,000-volt transmission line segments in central Nebraska. The new lines will provide electric energy to three NPPD wholesale customers — Niobrara Valley EMC, Elkhorn Rural Public Power District, and Cornhusker Public Power District to serve the needs of new pumping stations that will be owned by Keystone, whose parent company is TransCanada.
Q: What is the purpose of the proposed transmission project?
A: TransCanada has announced plans to build an oil pipeline through central Nebraska which includes construction of five pumping stations to move oil. The purpose of NPPD’s 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline is to provide electric energy to local electric utilities allowing them to serve these pumping stations.
Q: What is NPPD’s role in this project?
A: Pumping stations use electric motors and require large amounts of electric energy. The Keystone XL Pipeline requires up to 25 megawatts per pumping station as a maximum “ultimate load.” NPPD provides bulk power to the local electrical distribution utilities to meet their electrical load. NPPD is obligated to provide adequate and reliable power supplies to its customers; therefore, NPPD will construct three new 115,000-volt transmission line segments in central Nebraska in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline. NPPD will also construct two new transmission substations, one near Clarks and one near Emmet. A third transmission line location will add an additional breaker bay to the Neligh Antelope Substation.
Q: What are the pipelines TransCanada is building through Nebraska?
A: TransCanada has previously constructed the Keystone Pipeline which runs north-south through Nebraska and is currently in service. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a second proposed pipeline in the planning stage. NPPD’s transmission line projects are designed to support the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Q: Will the pumping stations be an intermittent or steady load?
A: The pumping stations have a uniform load factor and will be generally operated 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.
PROJECT COSTS / RATES
Q: What is the cost of the 115,000-volt Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline?
A: TransCanada will pay 100 percent of all the related costs, presently estimated about $30 million. This includes all of the 115,000-volt transmission line project(s), and substation work associated with serving their Keystone XL Pumping Stations.
Q: NPPD originally stated that its customers would be paying for some parts of the facilities required to serve Keystone XL. Now NPPD is saying that Keystone is paying 100 percent of the costs? Which is it?
A: It is correct that with the original project (Keystone), NPPD had identified additional components (above and beyond that required to serve solely the Keystone pumping stations) that if constructed at the same time, would provide benefit to NPPD and our customers. This term was called “betterment.” The facilities identified as betterment were to be paid for by NPPD. However, once the pipeline route was moved, a new facilities’ study was completed to determine what was required to serve the new pumping station locations. With this re-study, there were no facilities identified as “betterment.” Therefore the term “betterment” was struck from the updated contract, and there are no costs identified in the scope of the new contract that NPPD will be responsible for. Thus, TransCanada/Keystone is now responsible for 100 percent of all costs for the KXL alternate facilities, and this is clear in the updated contract executed by NPPD and ratified at the September Board.
Q: How will the 115 kV Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline affect electric rates for NPPD customers?
A: NPPD Customers will see no impact to electric rates due to this project.
Q: How will the 115 kV Transmission Line Project for TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline affect electric rates for customers served by the local utility serving the pumping station?
NPPD provides the transmission service to the local utility which, in turn, serves the TransCanada pumping station directly. Just as NPPD has contracts with TransCanada Keystone to pay for the electrical facilities to serve their Pumping Stations, so do the respective Wholesale Partners. Therefore there will should be no negative impacts on electric rates to the wholesale customers customer’s as well.
Additionally, load growth for the Wholesale Partner (and NPPD) will increase. Electric rates will capture this additional load, which provides a benefit to the Wholesale Customer and NPPD.
Q: When will the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Project begin and be completed?
A: TransCanada has not received their U.S. Department of State Presidential Permit. This is required to proceed with the project. TransCanada is cautiously optimistic that they will receive this permit by the end of 2013. Therefore they have directed NPPD to proceed with planning and line routing to meet a June 2015 transmission line in-service date. NPPD is proceeding with planning, design, line routing and public processes, etc. However no construction of lines will take place until a Presidential Permit is obtained by TransCanada.
It is not clear if/when TransCanada will received a Presidential Permit. However, this is not an NPPD concern or issue. Because of the updated executed agreements with TransCanada and Keystone, which clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all parties, NPPD’s management and board are confident that these agreements and guarantee insures protection to the district and rate payers, regardless of whether TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline project proceeds or not.
Q: When will the routes for the new lines be selected?
A: NPPD will work diligently and thoroughly through our Public Line Routing Process as needed for each line. This includes ongoing open and thorough communications with all landowners, agencies and stakeholders. At this time, it is anticipated that the line routes for the three new transmission lines will be announced in early 2014.
LINE ROUTE / OWNERSHIP
Q: Where will the lines be constructed?
A: The three new 115,000-volt transmission lines will total approximately 22-24 miles in length, down from the original 74 miles of transmission line construction needed to serve TransCanada’s original Keystone XL oil pipeline route. The three new 115,000-volt lines will run:
- From a substation near Clarks to a Cornhusker PPD Pumping Station Substation near Fullerton, approximately 14-18 miles;
- For a three-mile line segment near Emmet, beginning at the proposed Eagle Creek Substation and running north to a Niobrara Valley EMC Pumping Station Substation ; and,
- For an approximately twomile segment near Neligh, running from a new Breaker Bay at the Antelope substation to a Elkhorn RPPD Pumping Station Substation.
Q: In populated areas, how will you place the transmission line structures?
A: Routing a new transmission line is an exacting and lengthy process. Many factors are taken into consideration. For example, routing engineers look at such factors as number of homes, land use and environmentally-sensitive areas, among others. All these items are considered when determining the proposed route. NPPD is committed to establishing a route that has a minimal impact to property and the environment based upon the aforementioned routing factors.
Q: Will you use H-frames or what type of structure will be used?
A: A combination of H-frame and/or single pole structures will likely be used, with wood, single pole structures predominating.
Q: Will the line be dedicated to serve the TransCanada load only?
A: Yes. the 115,000-volt transmission line segments will be radial (or single line) feeds to an NPPD wholesale partner’s pumping station’s substation, and it will be dedicated to serving the TransCanada load only. No other facilities are being constructed that would allow interconnection of other load. Should there be a need in the future to serve new loads in these areas, these facilities may offer an additional option to provide service to the new load, as studied at that time.
Q: What are NPPD’s routing criteria?
A: NPPD looks at a number of criteria (about three dozen) when siting a transmission line. These criteria range from land use to number of and proximity to residences, to environmental sensitivities, to cultural or historical areas. Public involvement is a key part of the routing process, and feedback from property owners will be gathered for NPPD to consider in determining a final line route. By law, NPPD’s transmission line routes must follow section or half-section lines in agricultural areas unless landowners voluntarily agree to the route crossing other areas.
Q: Who will own the line?
A: NPPD will own the transmission lines.
Q: Will the transmission line affect AM/FM radio and antenna TV reception?
A: A transmission line should not cause any type of interference with radio or television reception.
Q: Will NPPD be building a new substation?
A: NPPD will be building two new substations in support of the three transmission lines, one near Clarks and one near Emmet. Additionally, NPPD will be adding a breaker bay at the Antelope Substation near Neligh. NPPD’s Wholesale Partners will also be constructing the Pumping Station Substations at the pumping station sites, near Emmet, Neligh and Fullerton.
Q: What makes up a substation?
A: A substation is a facility made up of circuit breakers, switching equipment and control equipment. Transformers are also a common component of substations and will be needed in the Wholesale Partner’s Pumping Station Substations at the pumping station sites. There are no generators.
Q: What is the footprint of a typical substation?
A: A typical NPPD 115,000-volt substation usually requires from eight to 12 acres of land.
Q: How tall does a substation stand?
A: The majority of substation structures are under 25 feet, but certain structures, including line terminals could be 50 to 60 feet tall. When the design is completed, the height requirements will be determined.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT PROCESS
Q: What is the process NPPD uses to work with landowners?
A: NPPD’s public involvement process can vary according to each individual project’s needs. For example, if a line segment is short, (only a couple miles or so), and the number of affected landowners is small, (less than 10), then NPPD may choose to forego a formal public involvement process and meet face-to-face with those landowners. Generally, though, NPPD follows a thorough and comprehensive public involvement process.
The Public Involvement Process includes but is not limited to:
NPPD develops a Study Area for each project and presents it to the public. This is the entire area that will be studied for routing the transmission lines. Once NPPD reviews the study area and the public comments, Corridors further defining specific areas where lines can be routed will be established and public meetings will be held to allow public input. After that, NPPD will narrow the options down to Alternate Routes including a Preferred Line Route. A public hearing (required by Nebraska statute) will be held to present a proposed route, and NPPD will invite specific landowners along the proposed route to attend.
After a 30-day public comment period, NPPD will announce a Final Route and begin meeting with affected landowners. Surveys of proposed easement areas will be conducted as will property valuation appraisals. NPPD strives for fair and respectful treatment of affected landowners.
It should be noted, again, that NPPD’s public involvement process (above) is typical for NPPD’s larger transmission line projects, but steps may be combined as determined appropriate, resulting in few public meetings..
Q: How do you determine the study area?
A: A study area is a mapped area within whose boundaries an acceptable number of reasonable and achievable routing alternatives can be identified. The area includes the terminations for the transmission lines as well as an area large enough so that minimally constrained routing alternatives or segments can be identified yet small enough to be feasibly studied in detail. It must be an area that is defensible to the public and regulatory agencies against identifying reasonable alternatives outside of the selected area. A number of factors are considered in the establishment of a study area including physical, land use constraints, topographical concerns, sensitive environmental features etc. A study area boundary can change during the project if new data is discovered or due to public concern. That is one of the reasons we have public involvement meetings to review the study area.
Q. Has an environmental impact study been conducted for the project?
A. Specific triggers require the preparation of an environmental impact assessment in accordance with provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Specifically, an environmental evaluation is needed under NEPA if a project involves crossing federally managed or owned lands, if federal funding is used for the project, or if the project will require a major federal decision (major permit). At this time, we have not completed this type of environmental impact study and we do not believe it will be required. However, a Project Environmental Report will be completed which will provide details of environmental issues considered as part of the project.
Q: Did the routing and environmental analysis process for the Keystone XL oil pipeline include the transmission lines?
A: TransCanada is required to complete a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline project. Within the scope of the pipeline EIS, secondary or indirect impacts must also be considered, if known. Such secondary impacts include development of infrastructure such as utilities to support a project. TransCanada must include discussion of the possible impacts of the transmission lines within their project EIS as secondary impacts. This information cannot be included until final transmission line routes are determined. Therefore, the two projects are separate, but connected. The transmission line projects themselves do not require a federal environmental report, but NPPD conducts environmental analysis for the transmission lines as part of the route selection process.
Q: If my property ends up in the final line route, how much land will NPPD need to construct the line?
A: NPPD will need to acquire an “Easement for Electric Transmission Line” from each of the affected property owners. When siting a transmission line, NPPD typically follows section or half-section boundary lines. For this project, the right-of-way width needed will depend on the structure type that is used, and should range from a minimum of 30’ to a maximum of 50’ on each side of the centerline of the transmission line.
Q: What is the size of a structure’s footprint and the distance between structures?
A: If two-pole, H-frame structures are used, the footprint of a typical structure would be approximately 16 ft. from the outside of the two poles with the distance between structures approximately 700 ft. If single pole construction is used, the pole footprint would be approximately 1.5 ft. with a distance between poles of approximately 350 ft.
Q: Will I still be able to use my property near the lines?
A: The only limitations within the right-of-way are to restrict activities such as construction of buildings, grain bins, planting of trees, hay stacks or dirt mounds due to public safety concerns and to ensure the safe operation of the transmission line. NPPD will occupy the area where the transmission line structures are physically located; however, property owners will be able to resume normal agricultural operations in the unoccupied areas.
Q: How do you arrive at the payment method used for easements?
A: NPPD purchases easements to build and maintain transmission lines. NPPD will utilize the services of independent appraisers to provide property valuations and other pertinent information necessary to determine easement compensation. Owners of rural property will be compensated 80 percent of the appraised land value of the easement area. In addition to the easement payment, a structure payment will be paid to those landowners who have structures located on their property. The structure payment will vary depending on the type of structure used.
In urban areas, appraisers will view properties to determine the impact of the line on the property. The appraisers will consider the easement location, easement rights to be obtained, and the number and location of potential structures. The appraisers will then determine the appropriate compensation for each individual property. In addition to easement compensation, NPPD will pay for any damages that may occur during construction.
Following is more detail about structure payments, as applicable:
Structure Payment – 115,000 volts
- Single pole – $100 per pole
- 2-pole H-frame located in crop or hay land – $500 per 2-pole H-frame
- 2-pole H-frame located in pasture land – $250 per 2-pole H-frame
- Urban area – Determined by an independent appraiser
- Payment for any special considerations on a case-by-case basis
Q: What access to the structures will be required both during and after construction?
A: If your property is included in the route of the new transmission line, access will be needed during three different time frames: prior to construction, during construction and for future inspection and maintenance.
Prior to construction, NPPD will ask you to sign a “Right-of-Entry” document requesting permission to conduct initial design work such as surveying and inspecting for any environmental issues. During the easement acquisition process, right-of-way agents will work with landowners to inform them of the project schedule and determine the best access routes. Following construction, NPPD regularly inspects its lines by means of periodic air and annual ground patrols. If re-entry for maintenance work is necessary, it is NPPD’s practice to contact the property owner prior to construction/maintenance activities. The exception may be under emergency conditions when time constraints may not allow this to happen; however, contact will be made as soon as possible.
Q: How will NPPD settle any property damages due to construction?
A: Landowners are reimbursed for any property repairs needed due to work associated with the line both during and after construction. Payments for these repairs are made after review by the landowner/tenant and NPPD.
SYSTEM RELIABILITY / OTHER NPPD PROJECTS
Q: What effect will the increased energy demands of the new pump station have on the existing power supply, and will it affect my ability to irrigate as necessary?
A: NPPD has been and will continue to upgrade its facilities to ensure sufficient energy capacity to all its Wholesale customers to meet the needs of the existing customers and potential new customers such as KXL. NPPD’s Wholesale customers who supply the energy to each individual customer in this area are responsible for operating their own system as necessary. Part of their operation includes controlling the total load on their system, either due to restraints on their own system or by employing load control on pivots during high peak demand. By utilizing load control, it keeps their peak demand lower which translates to a lower rate to the customers.
Q: How do they align with the respective city electric service?
A: Addition of these transmission lines to serve TransCanada should not impact the existing electric services in the nearby communities.