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10th Annual Best Practices in Public Participation for Transmission Projects

Event Description and Agenda:

Transmission infrastructure projects are often characterized by high perceived risk and low stakeholder trust. A balance must be struck between the need for additional transmission development and landowner priorities, environmental impact considerations and regulatory compliance. 

A comprehensive strategic public participation process is a key tenet to the success of any transmission siting project. All stakeholders must be engaged throughout the process, using a wide variety of communication and engagement techniques that are tailored to the needs of each stakeholder. But how do you tackle this daunting challenge?

As an attendee of this EUCI conference, hear best practice case studies from leading electric transmission professionals. Learn the strategies and methods they use to positively engage stakeholders and overcome project obstacles. You will leave this conference with practical tools and techniques that can be immediately implemented within your own organization to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your public participation program.     

Thursday, January 28, 2016

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. :: Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:30 - 8:45 a.m. :: Conference Welcome

8:45 - 9:30 a.m. :: Crafting a Comprehensive Stakeholder Communications Plan for Your Transmission Project

If you have a transmission project, winning public acceptance may be one of your biggest hurdles. A well-organized opposition can cause unnecessary complications and even derail your project. A strategic communications plan can help you craft the best messages and deliver them to the right stakeholders at just the right time. Formally defining the basic elements such as objectives, strategies, tactics and timelines is time well spent. Learn what questions to ask to develop an instructive situational analysis, define your key audiences, develop key messages and formulate an outreach strategy. A well-crafted approach to strategic communications is scalable and productive, regardless of the size of your project.

Marcus Beal, Media Relations Manager, Pepco Holdings Inc.

9:30 - 10:15 a.m. :: Public Outreach in the Pre-Permitting Stage of a Transmission Project

The work required to successfully permit transmission projects begins long before the permit applications are submitted or the EIS is drafted. Successfully permitting such projects requires that project proponents anticipate both political and environmental objections, engage the public, including project opponents, in the scoping process and review applicable administrative processes to make sure that any necessary changes are made before the permitting process begins.  In this session, we will discuss how to successfully navigate the permitting process, as well as how to build an administrative record that will withstand legal challenges brought after projects have been permitted.

Steven G. Jones, Of Counsel, Holland & Hart

10:15 - 10:45 a.m. :: Networking Break

10:45 - 11:30 a.m. :: Case Study: Conducting Public Outreach on a Unique 500 kV Underground Transmission Project

Not all transmission projects are the same. The outreach for each project can vary significantly. Project details, political conditions, and unique community characteristics can influence how much and what type of outreach is conducted. As part of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project (TRTP), Southern California Edison (SCE) is currently constructing 3.5 miles of 500 kV underground transmission line - the first of its kind in North America and one of only a handful in the world. SCE's public outreach and communications in advance of and during the construction of this project has been extensive. This case study will highlight the outreach SCE has conducted for this unique project, how we have had to adapt our outreach strategy, and what outreach we have planned for the remainder of this project.

Michael Huynh, Account Director, Public Affairs, Southern California Edison

Lydia Roman, Account Director, Public Affairs, Southern California Edison

11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. :: It's Geek to Me: Using Visual Design to Break Down the Technical Language Barrier

The engineers, scientists, and planners who drive your projects are the smartest people you know. Their work is carefully planned, meticulously detailed, and irrefutably accurate.

Unfortunately, no one can understand it. Let visual design translate their geek speak into compelling, public-friendly materials that allow everyone to engage with your project. Take a visual journey through a world where beauty meets brains to learn how good design can do more than just make things pretty - it can fundamentally shape how the public understands and interacts with your project.

Kelly Spitzley, Web + Graphic Design, HDR

Emily Hyland, Strategic Communications Manager, HDR

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. :: Group Luncheon

1:15 - 2:00 p.m. :: Case study -  CapX2020 Projects:  Public Outreach Lessons Learned Along the Way

CapX2020 is a joint initiative of 11 transmission owning utilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin to upgrade and expand the electric transmission grid to ensure continued reliable and affordable service. The five 230 and 345 kV projects provide needed transmission capacity to support new generation outlet, including renewable energy. CapX2020 includes electric cooperatives, municipals and investor-owned utilities. The CapX2020 lines are projected to cost more than $2 billion and cover nearly 800 miles. When discussions and planning activities started in 2004, the institutional environment for planning for large scale transmission expansion was not mature and major issues such as cost allocation and recovery were unresolved. The diverse coalition of CapX2020 utilities, environmental groups, renewable energy developers, regulators and others was able to agree on regulatory reforms that addressed many of the issues at the state level. Meanwhile, MISO, through stakeholder processes was able to address issues related to cost allocation and recovery. Extensive public engagement activities were effective in building support for the projects and allowed for a timely and relatively non-controversial permitting process.  It was during construction that some of the most difficult challenges were encountered. In this session, you will hear some of the details of how these issues were successfully addressed as the projects near completion on schedule and on budget.

Tim Carlsgaard, Communications & Public Affairs Manager, CapX2020 | Xcel Energy

2:00 - 2:45 p.m. :: How to Effectively Communicate with Stakeholders about EMF and Related Electrical Issues

Almost 30 years have passed since the issue of electric and magnetic field exposure began making headlines. Today, even well-crafted message points such as "there is no consistent scientific basis to conclude that EMF causes health effects" and "levels from the power line will fall within the range of normal exposures," are met with skepticism from landowners who are impacted by proposals for new electric transmission lines. 

Fears of power lines still fuel "not-in-my-backyard" opposition to transmission lines. Utility communicators and project team members must be prepared to address EMF, stray voltage, dirty electricity, and other electricity related issuesóeven if the underlying issue is something different entirely. In this session, you'll hear how American Transmission Co. communicates with stakeholders and manages these issues.

Mary Carpenter, Sr. Local Relations Representative, American Transmission Company

2:45 - 3:15 p.m. :: Networking Break

3:15 - 4:00 p.m. :: Addressing Project Opposition with Technology as a Tool

In this presentation we will first examine the key components to successfully address project opposition, including:

  • Project need
  • Open houses
  • Project impacts
  • Project website use
  • Routing decision input

We will then discuss how to utilize technology as a tool to enhance public participation with existing technologies in transmission line siting.

Arlee Jones, Project Administrator, ED Project Management, Tampa Electric Co. (TECO)

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. :: Utilizing Collaboration to Balance the Natural and Man Made Environment

How do you balance the need for electricity with being a good steward of both the natural and cultural environment? Through a collaborative effort with stakeholders including federal and state regulators, engineers, environmental professionals, construction managers and private land owners, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has a developed a tremendous example of striking a balance between  the need for infrastructure and protection of the environment. The baseline for the project was developed during the transmission line siting process through the Arizona Corporation Commission, where TEP received a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility (CEC) for a single-circuit 500 kilovolt (kV) transmission line from the Pinal Central Substation, east of Casa Grande, Arizona to the existing Tortolita Substation, southeast of Red Rock, AZ, in Pinal County. State of the art planning techniques, "out of the box" thinking, and collaboration with stakeholders resulted in fewer impacts to the environment and created a company culture of environmental awareness that will be carried forward in TEP projects for years to come.

Cheryl Eamick, Sr. Environmental and Land Use Planner, Tucson Electric Power Company

5:00 - 6:00 p.m. :: Networking Reception Sponsored by HDR

Friday, January 29, 2016

8:00 - 8:30 a.m. :: Continental Breakfast

8:30 - 9:30 a.m. :: Case Study -  Collaboration and Communication:  Keys to Successful Multi-State Siting

The Midwest Transmission Project is a partnership project being accomplished by Transource-Missouri and the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). Transource-Missouri is a subsidiary of Transource Energy, which is a joint venture between American Electric Power and Great Plains Energy (parent of KCP&L). This Project consists of 180 miles of new 345-kV transmission from KCP&L's service territory into OPPD's service territory. The final route was selected last summer and the two partners have been moving forward with engineering, permitting, land acquisition and other complex aspects of the project. In this session, you will hear how collaboration and communication were used to get this multi-state project sited and the lessons learned and valuable insights gained from the process.

Julie Shull, Director, Transmission Construction, Kansas City Power & Light

9:30 - 10:15 a.m. :: Compassion, Understanding, and Patience in Addressing Project Opposition

In the business of siting electric utility infrastructure, opposition is the norm rather than the exception. While customers typically love an electric utility's product, they almost universally loathe the infrastructure necessary to deliver that product. In this session, we will discuss how to:

  • Acknowledge a customer's concern
  • Discern when a customer's concern cannot be resolved
  • Steer an opponent toward providing constructive input
  • Be credible
  • Become unflappable

Richard Stuhan, Siting Consultant Senior, Arizona Public Service

10:15 - 10:45 a.m. :: Networking Break

10:45 - 11:45 a.m. :: Environmental and Planning Hurdles Associated Transmission Projects

We will discuss some of the environmental and planning complexities associated with working on large scale transmission projects.  The presentation will discuss the issues associated with siting, scheduling, permitting, planning, and public outreach given the environmental, policy, and organizational constraints facing public and private utility providers.

11:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. :: Q&A and Conference Wrap-Up

12:00 p.m. :: Conference Adjourns

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