The Benton Public Utility District faces a potential fine of $26,600 for alleged violations of new requirements intended to ensure the reliability of the nation's electric grid.
However, the Benton PUD expects the fine to be reduced, said Dan Bickford, PUD director of power.
The PUD will emphasize in negotiations with the Western Electricity Coordinating Council that nothing really was at risk, according to PUD officials. Instead, the potential violation was a matter of not keeping a written record of some activities, Bickford said.
An assessment of the nation's vulnerabilities after Sept. 11 led to new reliability requirements that were enforceable. Although compliance became mandatory in 2007, work has continued since then to determine what standards must be met.
Benton PUD determined this spring that it might not have complied with all requirements at the substation for the Nine Canyon Wind Project southeast of Kennewick, which it operates and maintains for Energy Northwest. It reported the issue to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council.
The Benton PUD is required to have evidence that protection system devices, such as batteries and control circuits, are maintained. However, it did not show it maintained and tested its voltage and current sensing devices and DC control circuitry, according to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council.
Benton PUD said the equipment was tested, but a complete written record was not kept to document it. It has been operated several times since then and worked correctly, according to Benton PUD.
It has submitted a three-step plan to address the possible violation, starting with formally identifying which transmission protection system components it is responsible for maintaining at the Nine Canyon substation and which is the responsibility of the Bonneville Power Administration. That was completed in January.
It also will coordinate with the Bonneville Power Administration to develop a written operations and maintenance agreement by April 14 and then complete maintenance and testing of the equipment it owns by July 13.
The Western Electricity Coordinating Council is allowed to levy a fine of $20,000 to $100,000 a day for the violation, according to its Notice of Alleged Violation.
It's proposing $26,600 based on factors that include the minimal risk to the reliability of the bulk electric system, the notice said. In addition Benton PUD voluntarily took actions to correct the issue and has cooperated, the notice said. There is no evidence the alleged violation was intentional, it said.