Interview with: Jack Halpern, Vice President - Transmission Services, The Louis Berger Group, Inc
It is important to gain public support for your activities when you are in the business of power transmission and distribution, says Jack Halpern, Vice President - Transmission Services, The Louis Berger Group, Inc. However, in order to get backing, organizations need to keep the channels of communication open between the public, multiple agencies and of course the routing team members. From a solution provider company at the marcus evans Transmission & Distribution Summit 2010 taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 14-16, Halpern discusses how to build cooperation and align everyone’s needs.
What is the best way of getting new transmission lines approved?
Jack Halpern: “There is a strong reaction to new transmission lines from the public. People are getting involved through the regulatory process or public hearings to stop transmission lines from getting erected in their neighborhoods. It is important that organizations manage the information flow, especially the misinformation campaigns that occur.
It is necessary for us to inform the public of the need for additional transmission line infrastructure and let them know that their opinion counts. Transmission lines need to be connected from one point to another, but usually there is flexibility in terms of location between these points. Collecting and considering comments from the public is very important as well as the documentation of these comments.”
How do you overcome the difficulties of dealing with multiple agencies?
Jack Halpern: “We deal with multiple agencies throughout the transmission process - different counties, municipalities and multiple federal agencies. It gets even more complicated with intra-state lines. We have to be able to respond to these different agencies and their needs.
Planning the agency coordination process should start at an early stage. We have to identify all the possible agencies, maintain good communication throughout the different phases and document all discussions. If possible, it is also a good idea to gather agencies for a formal consultation, where everybody can sit together and discuss the common needs at the beginning of the project.”
What are the routing best practices?
Jack Halpern: “One of the learned lessons is in the scheduling of transmission line projects. Sometimes schedules are very tight because of reliability issues so it is necessary to build in flexibility and the ability to work on multiple tasks along parallel pathways in the route selection, permitting and design construction process.
Another practice is a route selection report that fulfills all the requirements of all the agencies which would help avoid errors and inconsistencies, thereby saving time.
We also have seen many utility companies with right of ways (rows) looking to use them decades later for constructing transmission lines. In the public’s eye, particularly for the people who moved into the area, these lands are their back yards; proposals for using an existing unused row could be the equivalent of a greenfield row in difficulty.”
Do you have a final message to T&D executives?
Jack Halpern: “Do the long-term planning in terms of system needs and look at identifying the trends of the transmission system for the region; provide an open process with the public and identify the need for the lines considering not only renewable energy sources but also peaking and base load generation.”
About The Louis Berger Group, Inc
The Louis Berger Group’s Transmission Services Division focuses on providing the environmental planning, permitting, and regulatory support necessary to meet the ever growing demands on our electric utility clients. Our team understands the unique challenges the industry faces and has the knowledge, experience, and capacity to meet these challenges in an responsive, professional, and creative way.
Our service areas include: Routeing and Site Selection, Public Outreach Support, Permitting/Compliance Monitoring, NEPA Support for Federal Actions, and Natural Resource Management Planning.
Summit Website: www.t-dsummit.com/JHBW