Senate confirms nominations of LaFleur, Bay to FERC
The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Obama’s nominations of Cheryl LaFleur and Norman C. Bay to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Senate voted 90-7 to confirm LaFleur and 52-45 to confirm Bay.
Obama indicated he planned to name Bay chairman over LaFleur, who has been serving as acting chairman since November. Prior to the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged colleagues to vote against the Bay nomination, saying he found it “shameful” that Obama would displace a well-qualified woman with a less-qualified man for the position.
Chairman Mary Landrieu, D-La., of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Senate a compromise had been reached in which LaFleur would continue to serve as FERC chairman for nine months while Bay “will train, if you will.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the ranking minority member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told the Senate “a weird drama has played out” involving the deal discussed above. Murkowski said there has been no confirmation that such a deal would occur and if LaFleur is allowed to remain as chairman, there is a question whether she would have full authority or whether Bay would be a “shadow chairman.”
In other news, commissioner John Norris announced his resignation from FERC to take a post with the U.S. Agriculture Department in Italy. His term expires in 2017, but his resignation was effective Aug. 20.
Construction begins on 36.4-MW Red Rock plant
The closure of the north tailwater area near Iowa’s Red Rock Dam signaled the beginning of construction on a 36.4-MW hydro plant, said Missouri River Energy Services.
The plant is being built along existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers infrastructure on the Des Moines River. MREW recently received the last necessary approvals from the Corps and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
MRES and co-developer Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency selected Ames Construction Inc. as general contractor for the project and awarded a $46 million contract to Voith Hydro to supply turbines and generators for the plant.
The plant is to be completed in spring 2018.
FERC draft EA backs licensing 50-MW R.C. Byrd project
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff have issued a draft environmental assessment recommending licensing of the 50-MW Robert C. Byrd project at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam on the Ohio River.
The city of Wadsworth, Ohio, filed an application to license the project at the Corps’ Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, built in 1937 on the Ohio River. Wadsworth, a member of American Municipal Power, is developing the project with AMP, which operates the 44-MW Belleville project and is developing four other projects on the Ohio.
The Robert C. Byrd project would feature a 1,200-foot-long intake channel, two intakes with trashracks, a reinforced concrete powerhouse housing two bulb-type turbine-generators, a 900-foot-long tailrace channel and a 2.4-mile-long transmission line. It would generate 266,000 MWh annually operating in “run-of-release” mode, whenever the Corps made flows available.
The FERC draft EA issued July 8 found the project “would not constitute a major federal action that would significantly alter the quality of the human environment,” meaning it does not require a full environmental impact statement.
“We recommend licensing the project as proposed by Wadsworth with some staff modifications and additional measures,” FERC staff said in the draft EA. The staff modifications primarily would impose additional environmental safeguards beyond those proposed by the applicant. The draft EA found with staff modifications, project power in the first year of operation would cost $21.6 million, about $81.36 per MWh more than the likely cost of alternative power.
Reservoir behind Hoover Dam dips to historic low
The drought impacting the southwestern U.S. has caused Nevada’s Lake Mead to dip to its lowest water levels since Hoover Dam was completed in the 1930s, according to U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation officials.
Lake Mead annually supplies about 9 million acre-feet (maf) of water to homes, businesses, farms, Native American tribes and communities, and Mexico. Reclamation’s Boulder Canyon Operations Office projects the lake’s elevation to drop to about 1,080 feet above sea level, although the agency said it is not expecting shortage conditions until at least 2015.
“We will meet our water orders this year,” Lower Colorado Regional Director Terry Fulp said. “We continue to closely monitor the projections of declining lake levels and are working … to keep as much water in Lake Mead as we can through various storage and conservation efforts.”
Only if Lake Mead was projected to reach 1,075 feet elevation by Jan. 1 of each year would the Secretary of the Interior reduce water deliveries in the Lower Basin. Reclamation said it projects Lake Mead’s elevation to be about 1,083 feet on Jan. 1, 2015.
Lake Powell will have released a record low amount of water — 7.48 maf — into Lake Mead in Water Year 2014, which ends Sept. 30, in accordance with the 2007 guidelines.
FERC proposes power system physical security reliability standard
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) that would approve, with modifications, a power system physical security reliability standard submitted by the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
The commission issued an order in March directing NERC to develop a reliability standard requiring owners and operators of the bulk power system to address risks due to physical security threats and vulnerabilities. That order required physical security for the facilities most critical to reliable operation of the system.
The new NOPR, No. RM14-15 issued July 17, finds NERC’s proposed reliability standard largely satisfies these directives. However, FERC proposes to direct NERC to develop a modification that would allow FERC or other appropriate governmental authorities to add or subtract facilities from an operator’s list of critical facilities, as well as direct NERC to revise wording to narrow the scope and number of identified critical facilities. Specifically, the NOPR suggests that NERC’s term “widespread instability” is more ambiguous than the term “instability.”
In the NOPR, FERC seeks comment on the two proposed modifications and proposes that NERC submit two reports analyzing whether the physical security reliability standard should apply to additional types of facilities and analyzing grid resiliency and how to maintain reliable operations when faced with loss or degradation of critical facilities.
Corps awards contracts for emergency work at northwestern facilities
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts to Alstom, Andritz, National Electric Coil and Voith for the emergency rehabilitation or replacement of turbines, generators and pump motors in the Corps’ Northwestern Region.
The Corps’ Portland District was seeking firms to provide emergency rehabilitation or replacement of the large hydropower equipment in the Corps’ Northwestern Region, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.
IDIQ contracts give the four awardees an opportunity to be contracted for work that includes emergency non-routine inspection, rehabilitation, and/or replacement services for 197 turbines and generators and for large pump motors at Corps facilities.
Equipment could include turbines, generators, pumps, and pump motors of at least 500 hp, as well as water passage and closure devices and their control units. Turbines could include Kaplan units of at least 90 inches in diameter and Francis units of at least 39 inches in throat diameter.
The Corps intends to expedite rehab and replacement of deteriorated and failed major mechanical and electrical equipment by securing up to five contracts for a base year and four option years. The awards could have a cumulative value up to US$99.5 million.
Engineering, design firm AECOM acquires URS Corp.
AECOM will acquire all outstanding shares of URS Corporation for US$56.31 per share in cash and stock. AECOM will pay about $4 billion for the outstanding URS shares, based on the closing share price as of July 11, 2014. Including the assumption of URS debt, the total value of the transaction is about $6 billion.
The acquisition will make AECOM one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world in terms of revenue, with the combined firm to be headquartered in Los Angeles. AECOM said it also expects to maintain a “key operational presence” in San Francisco, where URS is headquartered.
Combined, the companies will have more than 95,000 employees in 150 countries. Data from calendar year 2013 show the group would have had pro forma revenues of more than $19 billion and EBITDA of about $1.3 billion.
The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory and stockholder approvals. The deal is expected to close in October.
Raising of California’s San Vicente Dam complete
San Diego County Water Authority has completed a raise of San Vicente Dam, adding 152,000 acre-feet of storage capacity to the reservoir. The dam raise represents the largest and final element of the authority’s US$1.5 billion Emergency Storage Project, which is a system of reservoirs, pipelines and pumping stations designed to ensure a six-month supply of water for the San Diego region.
SDCWA said about a third of the increased capacity is for emergency use, while the remainder will serve as “carryover storage” designed to be filled in wet years and tapped in dry years.
The $416 million project increased the dam’s height by 117 feet and used more than 600,000 cubic yards concrete and 150 tons of steel, SDCWA says.