In a ruling issued Thursday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a protest by Columbia Basin Electric Cooperative and ordered Umatilla Electric Cooperative to provide wholesale transmission service to Wheatridge Wind Energy’s proposed 500-megawatt generation project in northeastern Oregon.
“We’re thrilled with the ruling,” said Robert Echenrode, UEC General Manager and CEO. “We have maintained all along that this is a federal issue rather than a state issue, so we are gratified that FERC affirmed that in its decision.”
“We haven’t fully digested the contents of the order, and there are challenges yet to be addressed on this project,” he said.“We look forward to working with Wheatridge in the continuing development of this project.”
Umatilla Electric has been working with Wheatridge for several years to construct a 230-kilovolt transmission line connecting the proposed wind project to a Bonneville Power Administration substation in Umatilla Electric’s service territory.
Columbia Basin threatened to file a complaint against Umatilla Electric before the Public Utility Commission of Oregon because it believed the proposed interconnection and transmission services would violate Columbia Basin’s exclusive service territory and were prohibited under Oregon law.
In response, Wheatridge and Umatilla Electric filed an application with FERC to confirm that the transmission line was subject to FERC jurisdiction and did not implicate Oregon service territory laws.
The application also requested an order confirming Umatilla Electric’s authority and ordering Umatilla Electric to interconnect the project and provide point-to-point transmission service.
Columbia Basin filed a protest to the application arguing that the proposed transmission service by Umatilla Electric would violate its exclusive service territory under Oregon law. Columbia Basin also filed a complaint at the Public Utility Commission of Oregon making the same arguments, which was subsequently withdrawn by Columbia Basin.
In its Thursday ruling, FERC made a series of findings, granting the application and rejecting Columbia Basin’s arguments. Some of the key findings are:
· FERC determined that Umatilla Electric’s transmission service would not cause Columbia Basin to lose its exclusive retail service territory under Oregon law.
· FERC determined that Wheatridge’s request for interconnection and transmission from Umatilla Electric was solely to facilitate wholesale sales of energy in interstate commerce, which is governed by federal law and exclusively within FERC’s jurisdiction.
· Columbia Basin’s interpretation of the law would wrongly prohibit a utility from building interstate transmission facilities to transmit power from a generator to facilitate wholesale sales of electricity and would effectively supersede FERC’s exclusive authority over interstate transmission.
In the end, FERC adopted and confirmed the Umatilla Electric arguments and directed Umatilla Electric to provide the requested interconnection and transmission services to Wheatridge. Umatilla Electric will continue working with Wheatridge and other stakeholders in the development of the transmission line.