RCA will address public questions, but not about Snettisham hydroelectric project

Issue of valuable project doesn’t fit into current application, commissioners say

Mayo Schmidt, President and CEO of Hydro One Limited, left, listens to Dennis Vermillion, Senior Vice President of Avista Corp. and President of Avista Utilities, during a public meeting with leadership from AEL&P, Avista and Hydro One at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau residents have filed an unusually high amount of public comments about the proposed purchase of the city’s electric utility, and the Regulatory Commission of Alaska has noticed.

 

The RCA is holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27 in Juneau to take further comments about Canadian power company Hydro One’s intention to buy Avista, which is the parent company of Alaska Electric, Light &Power. One of the main issues that Juneau residents have brought up regarding the purchase, however, will not be under discussion.

Many commenters have looked to the future of the Snettisham hydroelectric project, which is currently federally owned and can transfer into AEL&P’s hands in 2034. Many have wanted to ensure that Snettisham doesn’t fall into the hands of Hydro One and the Canadian government (the Ontario government owns 47 percent of Hydro One).

In its 10-page statement released Friday, RCA commissioners said the issue of Snettisham does not fit into this current application. To transfer ownership of Snettisham, the RCA statement wrote, there will have to be a separate application where the RCA will determine whether it is in the public interest to transfer ownership of the hydroelectric project. Consequently, the Feb. 27 meeting will not address the issue of future Snettisham ownership.

The RCA’s statement comes a few days after multiple organizations requested that the RCA open up another public comment period as it considers Hydro One’s application.

According to the RCA’s statement this week, the commission is required to issue a final order by May 18 of this year. The Feb. 27 meeting will allow members of the public to give written and oral comments and it will allow officials from Avista and Hydro One a chance to respond to them. It will take place in the Sheffield Ballroom No. 3 at Centennial Hall in Juneau.

The original public comment period closed Dec. 21, but this past Tuesday Hydro One and Avista filed a 444-page response to the dozens of comments that Juneau residents posted during the original comment period. This response was filed more than 40 days after the close of that comment period, leaving members of the public without a way to respond.

The Alaska Independent Power Producers Association (AIPPA) then requested either another comment period or an open meeting regarding Hydro One’s application to acquire Avista. Local energy company Juneau Hydropower Inc. (JHI) filed a similar request.

The statement also read that the issue of joint use of Juneau’s hydroelectric resources (mostly in relation to JHI’s intention of using Sweetheart Lake for its project) also does not belong in this conversation. The issue of shared resources will also not be addressed at the Feb. 27 meeting, the RCA statement said.

Hydro One also issued a statement Friday, directed at the comments from AIPPA and JHI. Through the law firm K&L Gates, LLP, Hydro One shared similar sentiments to the RCA statement. Hydro One’s statement said there is no need to institute an entire new public comment period.

“The additional opportunity for comment provided for by the Feb. 27, 2018, public conference allows adequate time for additional public input on the proposed transaction,” the statement read.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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