May 2021

 

MPSC Spotlight png

This month's MPSC Spotlight features an update on the Commission's recent decision regarding Enbridge Energy's application to replace and relocate the section of Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac. We also report on the launch of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, highlight May as Electrical Safety Awareness Month, and examine the growing role of Distributed Energy Resources from a regional markets perspective.


April 21, 2021 Order in U-20763

In April 2020, Enbridge filed an application at the Commission pursuant to Public Act 16 of 1929 seeking authority to replace and relocate roughly four miles of its Line 5 pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac into a tunnel beneath the Straits (Case No. U-20763). Under the law governing the siting of pipelines in Michigan and past Commission precedent, the Commission's determination in this matter considers the following three criteria:

  1. Has the applicant demonstrated a public need for the proposed pipeline?
  2. Is the proposed pipeline designed and routed in a reasonable manner?
  3. Will construction of the pipeline meet or exceed current safety and engineering standards?

Additionally, the Commission must also apply the requirements of the Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA) to its decisions. MEPA obligates the Commission to determine whether the proposed conduct will pollute, impair, or destroy natural resources and, if the proposed conduct is likely to do so, whether a feasible and prudent alternative exists that is consistent with the reasonable requirements of the public health, safety, and welfare.

On April 21, 2021, in response to a motion filed by Enbridge, the Commission issued an order defining the scope of review and the permissible evidence in the case. In its order, the Commission rejected arguments calling for review of public need for the entirety of Line 5, instead restricting the review of public need to only the four-mile replacement segment. The Commission also found that, under MEPA, concerns over greenhouse gas emissions raised by several parties to the case must be reviewed, so the order permits evidence related to such emissions attributable both to the construction of the replacement project and to the products that would move through the replacement segment. Further, though the Commission refrained from prejudging the question, given the uncertainty around the operational future of Line 5 due to the revocation and termination of Enbridge's easement by the Governor and Department of Natural Resources, evidence and arguments on the appropriate basis of comparison of any pollution attributable to the products flowing through the replacement segment will also be allowed.

Following the April 2021 order, the scope of Case No. U-20763 includes the following:

  • The utility tunnel as it relates to the determination of the reasonableness of the pipeline's route and design;
  • The public need for the four-mile replacement segment of the line at the Straits of Mackinac; and
  • Whether the project meets the requirements of MEPA, including consideration of greenhouse gas emissions related to the construction of the replacement project and the products that are expected to be transported through the Straits portion of the line.

Subsequent to the recent order, the Administrative Law Judge overseeing the case adjusted the schedule to allow the parties to accommodate the newly-defined scope of the case.

Additional background about Enbridge's application and the Act 16 review process is available on the MPSC's Line 5 page.


Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

FCC

On May 12, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program. $3.2 billion appropriated by the federal government is available through this program to help low-income households pay for home broadband service and equipment. Through the program, eligible consumers may receive a $50 monthly discount on their broadband bill - $75 a month for eligible consumers living on qualifying Tribal lands.

The broadband benefit also provides for a one-time device discount of up to $100 for a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer purchased through an eligible provider. Consumers receiving the discount are required to make a co-payment of more than $10 and less than $50.

According to the FCC, a household is eligible for the benefit if a member of the household meets one of these criteria:

  • Has an income at or below 135% of federal poverty guidelines or participates in assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline;
  • Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The EBB is a temporary assistance program that will expire when federal funds are exhausted or six months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency.

More information regarding the EBB program, eligibility, and how to apply is available through the Universal Service Administrative Company and the FCC. The FCC also has a list of Michigan providers participating in the EBB Program. More providers may be added to this list once they receive required federal approval.


May is Electrical Safety Month

Electrical safety graphic

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) commemorates each May as Electrical Safety Month. Recent years have seen increased adoption of both electric vehicles and distributed energy resources like rooftop solar. For many, these emerging technologies introduce new and unfamiliar ways of interacting with electricity. Because of these developments, observing electrical safety practices has continued to be critical for protecting ourselves, our families, and our homes and property. Over the last year specifically, more people than ever have begun working from home offices. This shift has prompted the theme of this year's Electrical Safety Month: "Connected to Safety." Visit esfi.org to find free resources about electrical safety, and see our MPSC Consumer Tip about electrical safety while working from home.

In 2020, through the MPSC's MI Power Grid initiative, the Grid Security and Reliability Standards workgroup met several times to review and discuss updates to the Technical Standards for Electric Service, as well as the Service Quality and Reliability Standards applicable to electricity providers in Michigan. In Case No. U-20629 and Case No. U-20630, the Staff filed reports on Dec. 15, 2020 outlining proposed changes to both sets of standards for the reliability and quality of electric distribution service. The Commission expects to undertake formal rulemaking proceedings in the coming months to implement the improved reliability rules and standards.


OMS Distributed Energy Resources Workgroup & FERC 2222

MPSC Staffer Erik Hanser was recently elected to serve as the Vice Chair of the Organization of MISO States (OMS) Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Workgroup. This workgroup is focused on the OMS efforts related to DER, specifically focused on the interface between the transmission and distribution systems. The workgroup is responsible for tracking DER-related matters at several Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) stakeholder committee meetings, as well as all federal developments from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corp.

In September 2020, FERC issued Order 2222, which enabled DER aggregators to compete in all regional organized wholesale electric markets alongside traditional energy resources. In preparation for growth in these markets, organizations like the OMS must actively participate in the stakeholder process to ensure that revised wholesale market tariffs and business processes related to DER integration will be coordinated with retail tariffs, protect  grid reliability, and expand market competition in this changing system.


U-20980 Pole Attachments Comment Period Open

In its May 13, 2021, order in Case No. U-20980, the Commission responded to a request by ExteNet to apply the same pole attachment provisions to wireless communications providers that are applied to wireline telecommunications providers. The order opens a period for any interested persons to submit comments to the docket by June 10, 2021.

To submit a written comment on any case before the Commission, please email us at mpscedockets@michigan.gov. For fastest processing, please be sure to include the case number in the subject line of your email. Upon approval, written comments will be placed in the docket on our website and are available for public and Commission review. Please do not submit any information you wish to remain private.


Have a utility complaint, or need help with your utility service? We're here to help. Submit your complaint or inquiry online or call 800-292-9555.


Tune in to our next regularly scheduled virtual Commission Meeting on May 26, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.


The mission of the Michigan Public Service Commission is to serve the public by ensuring safe, reliable, and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates.


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