Legal Memorandum: Retirement of Public Utilities in MN

Issue: What are the legal obligations for the retirement of power plants, transmission lines and gas pipelines in Minnesota?

Area of Law: Environmental Law
Keywords: Public utility operation; Abandonment of equipment and facilities; Power plants, transmission lines and gas pipelines
Jurisdiction:  Minnesota
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 216C.10, § 299J.01,§ 299F.57, subd. 1(a), § 216D.04, subd. 349; C.F.R. Part 192; Bloomington, Minn., Code § 17.84, § 17.79(a), § 17.81.01; Brooklyn Park, Minn., Code § 96.23; Rapids, Minn., Code § 10-231, § 8-14-4, § 8-14-28; Eagan, Minn., Code § 7.06; Minneapolis, Minn., Code § 99.810, § 99.640, § 429.90, § 429.175; Plymouth, Minn., Code § 800.02, subd. 19(A); St. Paul, Minn., Code § 116.18
Date: 11/01/2009

Multiple chapters of the Minnesota Statutes relate to the operation of public utilities.  Chapter 216C, which addresses energy planning and conservation, authorizes the Commissioner of Commerce to address changes to public utility operation and to promulgate regulations potentially affecting the abandonment of all or a portion of public utility equipment.  See Minn. Stat. § 216C.10 (2009).  A public utility must report existing transmission lines within the state, as well as provide the Public Utilities Commission with information on all transmission lines over 200 kilovolts that it plans to retire within the next 15 years.  Minn. R. 7610.0500 (2009).  The same requirement applies to future facility retirements.  Id., 7610.0420.  There are, however, no related specific provisions on dismantling or securing the lines.

A general provision requires a public right-of-way user to notify the local government unit when facilities are to be abandoned, and the user must remove the facilities from the right-of-way if required in conjunction with other right-of-way repair, excavation, or construction, unless the local government unit waives the removal requirement.  Id., 7819.3300.

The regulations governing the Minnesota One-Call program distinguish between abandoned facilities (see id., 7560.0100, subp. 1a) and out-of-service facilities (see id., 7560.0100, subp. 9).  Facility operators must provide maps, drawings, diagrams, etc., on equipment in both categories to an excavator.  Id., 7560.0125, subp. 1.

With respect to pipeline safety, the Public Safety Commissioner is empowered to regulate pipelines as needed to comply with the appropriate federal regulations, as well as to supplement those regulations, […]

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