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FERC approves settlement with Imperial Irrigation District over 2011 blackout


From the August 8, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published August 8, 2014

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) in California has agreed to pay a $12 million civil penalty under a stipulation and consent agreement that was approved yesterday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The agreement, reached by FERC’s Office of Enforcement and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), resolves the investigation by the two agencies into IIDs involvement in the Southwest blackout of Sept. 8, 2011.

The agreement is the second settlement related to the FERC-NERC joint investigation into the outage that left more than 5 million people without power for up to 12 hours. The outages occurred in Southern California, Arizona, and Baja California, Mexico.

IID has agreed to mitigate the reliability standard violations. The utility "has made significant efforts to address those reliability concerns and affirms that it has completed most of the required mitigation measures," FERC said. 

FERC enforcement staff and NERC found that the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) violated 10 requirements of four of its reliability standards on transmission operations and transmission planning, including a failure to coordinate its operations planning with neighboring systems. The violations "were serious deficiencies that undermined reliable operation of the bulk power system," FERC said. 

IID stipulated to the facts in the agreement and will pay a civil penalty of $12 million. Of that, $3 million will be evenly split between the U.S. Treasury and NERC, and $9 million will be invested in reliability enhancement measures by IID that exceed the requirements of the mandatory reliability standards.

The reliability enhancements include construction of one or more utility-scale battery energy storage facilities within IID’s transmission operations area. By Dec. 31, 2016, IID must provide evidence to FERC enforcement staff and to NERC that it has spent a minimum of $9 million to complete the systems. Any remaining amount of the $9 million will be paid in equal shares to the U.S. Treasury and NERC.

In January, FERC staff said that reliability standard violations by the Western Electric Coordinating Council's (WECC) reliability coordinator, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and several electric utilities contributed to the September 2011 blackout. In a Jan. 22 notice, FERC staff alleged violations of various standards by Arizona Public Service, IID, Southern California Edison and the Western Area Power Administration's Desert Southwest division, as well as the CAISO and WECC reliability coordinator. (See Public Power Daily, Jan. 27.) 
 

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