Section 69I. The department shall approve or reject long-range plans; provided, however, that a long-range plan submitted in conjunction with a petition to construct a facility may be referred to the board for review and approval or rejection in accordance with section sixty-nine J. Every electric company, except municipal corporations authorized to operate a municipal lighting plant under the provisions of sections thirty-four to thirty-six, inclusive, shall file with the department a long-range forecast with respect to the electric power needs and requirements of its market area, taking into account wholesale bulk power sales or purchases or other cooperative arrangements with other electric companies, for the ensuing ten-year period. Such forecast shall be filed at least every two years.
Every gas company, except municipal corporations authorized to operate a municipal gas plant under the provisions of sections thirty-four to thirty-six, inclusive, shall file with the department a long-range forecast with respect to the gas requirements of its market area, taking into account wholesale bulk gas sales or purchases or other cooperative arrangements with other gas companies, for the ensuing five-year period. Said forecast of gas requirements shall consist of the gas sendout necessary to serve projected firm customers, and the available supplies, for the ensuing five-year period. Such forecast shall be filed at least every two years.
As regional plans covering longer time periods are developed, they shall be filed with the department. Neither said department, the board, nor any other person, in taking any action pursuant to sections 69I to 69J1/4, inclusive, shall be subject to any of the provisions of sections 61 to 62H, inclusive, of chapter 30.
Said forecasts shall include, in such form and detail as the department shall prescribe, the following information:
(1) A description of all then existing agreements with other electric or gas companies for joint planning or joint forecasting of electric power or gas needs and the purchase or sale of electric power or gas or reserve capacity.
(2) A forecast of the electric power needs or gas requirements for its market area, taking into account wholesale bulk power or gas sales or purchases, or other co-operative arrangements with other utilities and energy policies as adopted by the commonwealth.
(3) A description of actions planned to be taken by the company which will affect capacity to meet such needs or requirements, including, but not limited to: expansion, reduction or removal of existing facilities; construction or acquisition of additional facilities; a description of alternatives to planned action such as other methods of generating, manufacturing or storing, other site locations, other sources of electrical power or gas, including facilities which operate on solar or geothermal energy and wind or facilities which operate on the principle of cogeneration or hydrogeneration, and no additional electrical power or gas; a reduction of requirements through load management; a description of the environmental impact of each proposed facility; provided, however, that the above provisions shall not apply to facilities which have been approved as part of a previous long-range forecast or supplement thereto. The department shall after public notice and a period for comment be empowered to issue and revise its own list of guidelines. A minimum of data shall be required by these guidelines from the applicant for review concerning land use impact, water resource impact, air quality impact, solid waste impact, radiation impact and noise impact.
The department or board shall conduct a public hearing on every long-range forecast within six months of the filing thereof. Such hearing shall be an adjudicatory proceeding under the provisions of chapter thirty A. The department or board shall within twelve months from the date of filing approve a long-range forecast if it meets the following requirements: all information relating to current activities, environmental impacts, facilities agreements and energy policies as adopted by the commonwealth is substantially accurate and complete; projections of the demand for electric power, or gas requirements and of the capacities for existing and proposed facilities are based on substantially accurate historical information and reasonable statistical projection methods and include an adequate consideration of conservation and load management; provided, however, that the department or board shall not require in any gas forecast or hearing conducted thereon the presentation of information relative to the demand for gas; projections relating to service area, facility use and pooling or sharing arrangements are consistent with such forecasts of other companies subject to this chapter as may have already been approved and reasonable projections of activities of other companies in the New England area; plans for the expansion and construction of the applicant's new facilities are consistent with current health, environmental protection, and resource use and development policies as adopted by the commonwealth; and are consistent with the policies stated in section sixty-nine H to provide a necessary energy supply for the commonwealth with a minimum impact on the environment at the lowest possible cost.
If the department or board determines the standards set forth above have not been met, it shall within twelve months of the date of filing reject in whole or in part the long-range forecast setting forth in writing its reasons for such rejections, or approve the long-range forecast subject to stated conditions. In event of rejection or conditioned approval, the applicant or individual company may within six months submit an amended forecast. A public hearing on the amended forecast shall be held on the same terms and conditions applicable to the original forecast.
The authority of the department and board to conduct public hearings under the provisions of this section may be delegated in whole or part to employees of the department. Pursuant to the rules of the department and board, employees of the department shall report back to the department or board with recommended decisions for final action thereon.
The department and the siting board shall prepare and file with the general court, by March first of each year, an annual report for the previous calendar year detailing the substance of all plans and forecasts filed pursuant to this section, any and all actions taken by the department pursuant to implementing the provisions of this section, and an analysis of the reliability and diversity of electric power and gas needs based on such filings with the department and decisions made and issued by the department.
The department is authorized to exempt any electric or gas company from any or all provisions of this section upon a determination by the department and the siting board, after notice and hearing, that an alternative process is in the public interest.