Phoenix — The Arizona Corporation Commission held its monthly Open Meeting to discuss and vote on various securities, safety and utilities agenda items. Here is a brief recap of the meeting highlights:
UNS Electric, Inc. Request Lowers Rate Proxy for Distributed Generation Connections
In May of 2020, UNS Electric, Inc. (UNS) filed an application for a revision of its Rate Rider 14 and its Resource Comparison Proxy (RCP) rate to be effective October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021. In the Value and Cost of Distributed Generation proceeding, the Arizona Corporation Commission developed a methodology for determining the price at which UNS will purchase exported energy from customers with qualified on-site distributed generation facilities that are not grandfathered under the Commission’s net metering rules. The RCP is a proxy for the avoided cost of providing electrical service that results when a distributed generator exports power to the grid. The Commission held this item to discus it further at a future Open Meeting.
Arizona Corporation Commission Adopts Science-Based Approach to Summer Disconnections for Rural Arizona Electric Cooperatives
Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association (Grand Canyon), which represents the interests of Arizona’s member-owned rural electric cooperatives made a filing on behalf of Duncan Valley Electric Cooperative, Graham County Electric Cooperative, Navopache Electric Cooperative, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative and Trico Electric Cooperative (the Cooperatives) earlier this year to revise the cooperatives' disconnection provisions to adopt a science-bases approach, using the National Weather Service (NWS) as a guide.
Following the Corporation Commission’s adoption of emergency rules last summer, electric utilities were prohibited from disconnecting service from June 1 through October 15. While those rules remain in effect due to utility companies adopting that policy in their individual rules, Grand Canyon sought to modify the Cooperatives’ disconnection provisions due to several unintended consequences of the moratorium period, including high amounts of uncollectable debt.
Instead of tying a disconnection moratorium to a period of time, the five Cooperatives listed above will replace their blanket moratorium with a provision that allows it to suspend otherwise permissible terminations during periods when the National Weather Service forecasts major or extreme heat for the Cooperatives' service area for the following week. Grand Canyon and its member Cooperatives believe the NWS forecasts are a better indicator of heat risks for the Cooperatives' customers, as they are local, science-based forecasts that incorporate several factors including elevation and humidity for each of the Cooperatives’ service territories.
It is important to note that the Corporation Commission is in the process of drafting formal rules on summer disconnections and that the June 1 through October 15 disconnection moratorium is still in place.
Johnson Utilities, Update from Interim Manager
During an update from Johnson Utilities, LLC, the company’s Interim Manager, EPCOR, informed the Arizona Corporation Commission that the Section 11 Aeration Basin 2 is filled and operational. The Weir system rehab project at the Section 11 plant has been completed and will allow for proper flow of wastewater through the plant.
Odor mitigation efforts include sealing up headworks, regulating water levels, chemical addition to wetlands, increasing contact time with aerators, removing old sludge from deep settling zones and increasing the ecosorb misting system. These projects are all complete and EPCOR is seeing improvements from them. Some of the work to permanently address the odor issues does result in discreet and periodic odor emissions. A significant reduction in odors has been observed through hydrogen sulfide loggers located around the community surrounding the facility.
The new Ion Exchange (IX) has now been in operation for several months. The system has proved to be effective in treating the ground water in the region. Construction of the third vessel has been completed and has increased production by 500 gallons per minute at the Main Yard facility. Automation for this portion of the project is still to be completed, but the system is available for manual operation if needed.
Regarding the company’s customer care and outreach, EPCOR is continuing to analyze and determine if follow up, training or education needs to occur. Overall Customer satisfaction for May 2020 rose to 86 percent.
Special Open Meeting Regarding Johnson Utilities, L.L.C. Capital Improvement Plan Scheduled
The Commission listened to some discussion on the need to move forward with the Pecan Water Reclamation Facility Project approved in the Johnson Utilities’ Capital Improvement Plan approved in Decision No. #77330
. No decision was made on this matter. A Special Open Meeting has been tentatively scheduled on June 22, 2020 where the discussion on this item will continue.
CenturyLink Ordered to Pay Penalty for Blue Stake Violations
The Corporation Commission ordered CenturyLink to pay a $115,500.00 civil penalty for failing to comply with blue stake laws and mark its infrastructure locations for over a year as required when third parties, such as construction crews and excavators, request for identification of the location of the lines so they can avoid cutting or damaging the infrastructure with their equipment.
Beginning in May of 2019, the Commission’s Safety Division began receiving a high volume of complaints of CenturyLink’s failure to comply with Arizona Blue Stake Law. On thousands of occasions, after request by excavators, CenturyLink was failing to mark its underground facilities in the two-day time-frame required by the law. At the July 2019 Open Meeting, the Safety Division was directed to prepare an Order to Show Cause against CenturyLink for the violations. Since that time, Safety Division staff worked closely with CenturyLink through monthly meetings and in doing so has been able to reduce the backlog of locate tickets and therefore the Order to Show Cause was not filed. Instead, the company and the Commission have agreed to a regular monitoring of its performance of its compliance with Arizona Blue Stake Law and ordered CenturyLink to pay a civil penalty of $115,500.00. The fine will be paid into the Arizona General Fund.
CenturyLink Commits to Remedying 9-1-1 Service Outages in Arizona
CenturyLink briefed Commissioners on a Remedy Plan that it developed to address the issues noted in the Order to Show Cause regarding 9-1-1 outages and the condition of some of their facilities. The plan establishes metrics to measure progress and provides periodic reporting, filing and accountability during the consultation/reporting period.
The Remedy Plan’s key principles include identifying facilities needing repair, ensuring that appropriate and timely repairs are made, filing monthly reports and increasing employee and public awareness. This includes keeping a log of all enclosures/facilities within its service territory statewide enclosures in need of repair. Included on the list shall be the enclosures and facilities identified in Docket No. T-01051B-19-0183
and other enclosures/facilities it receives notification concerning the need for repair.
Throughout the consultation/reporting period, Century Link QC endeavors to repair all identified enclosures/facilities within 20 days, but must repair them in no more than 30 days. Such repairs shall be subject to permitting processes as applicable and any force majeure issues.
If an enclosure/facility is determined by CenturyLink to belong to another provider, CenturyLink shall notify the other provider and note that in its log.
To make sure CenturyLink has sufficient "eyes and ears" inspecting the facilities, CenturyLink commits to regularly and constantly patrol CenturyLink’s network to identify, report and repair in disrepair. The best way to make sure this is accomplished consistently is to leverage the constant presence of technicians in the field across the Arizona network. CenturyLink will also establish a method reporting issues with facilities in Arizona on their website, which will include a dedicated email address and telephone number. The telephone will not be staffed or answered, but will be monitored at least once per day and have enough voicemail capacity to receive notifications. Staff and CenturyLink shall agree on and file the contents of notice within 10 days.
Key commitments made also include bimonthly meetings with Pima County area 9-1-1 authorities to improve communication and coordination and bimonthly meetings with Page representatives to discuss 9-1-1 improvements and resolution of pole ownership and maintenance disputes.
To ensure that the Commission is kept fully apprised of all progress made on the issues identified in the Order to Show Cause, CenturyLink has committed to report on progress during Open Meetings every other month for the first six months and thereafter quarterly until December 31, 2022, which marks the end of the consultation/reporting period.
Pilot Program to Track Coronavirus in Sewage Using Software Presented to Commissioners
NJBSoft, a global software solution that incorporates local requirements for utility compliance and data management, outlined to Commissioners how they can detect COVID in wastewater using preliminary data and results, view the presentation here
Representatives from NJBSoft stated that viral loadings at wastewater plants can help identify community spread of COVID two weeks ahead of individual medical testing. If upon reopening of communities, the viral loadings increase, a trend can be established indicative of relative increases in COVID infections.
The pilot wastewater program sample was initiated at three wastewater treatment facilities in Arizona for COVID in May 2020. Wastewater and reclaimed water streams were sampled daily and the results were used to provide advanced notification of COVID levels for each community. Commissioner Dunn requested that this item be placed on an upcoming staff meeting agenda. Chairman Burns agreed and suggested that a docket be opened for further discussion on the topic as well.
A complete list of agenda items and a broadcast of the Commissioner’s June 10-11, 2020 meeting is available on the Corporation Commission’s website: http://azcc.gov/live