Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Sat Sep 1 10:24:51 CDT 2007


The Federal Communications Commission's Dallas Field Office issued Citations on July 25 to two utilities in a longstanding power line noise case in Lubbock, Texas. Bryan Edwards, W5KFT, of Lubbock, first reported the interference concerning the two involved utilities, Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L) and Xcel Energy, as early as 1994. The record shows that the FCC Dallas Field Office clarified the FCC rules with regard to power line noise for LP&L as early as 1998, and issued three letters to LP&L in 2003 and 2004. Xcel Energy was first issued an FCC letter in 2004.

The Citations to the Lubbock utilities said that due to an investigation conducted by the FCC's Dallas office May 22-25, 2007, they found that both LP&L and Xcel "caused harmful interference to the reception of amateur communications to amateur licensee W5KFT in Lubbock, Texas," and that "Section 15.209 sets the general radiated emission limits for intentional radiators. The limit for the band 30 to 88 MHz is 100 micro-volts per meter measured at 3 meters. The attached list of strong electrical arcing points appears to exceed the value allowed even for intentional radiators." The list, attached to each Citation, included 44 separate "strong electrical arcing points" that were found near Edwards' home.

The FCC directed both LP&L and Xcel, pursuant to the Commission's Rules, to provide documents and information within 10 days of their respective Citations. "Because the source of harmful interference is emanating from more than one power company and past attempts have not resolved the problem, you must submit a written plan describing the planned resolution of this case," including LP&L's coordination with Xcel Energy and Xcel's coordination with LP&L, according to the Citations. Also, each company is "directed to provide a report every sixty (60) days, of work completed to resolve the interference until your distribution system is in compliance."

Each Lubbock utility was warned that "[v]iolations of the Act or the Commission's Rules may subject the violator to substantial monetary forfeitures, seizure of equipment through in rem forfeiture action, and criminal sanctions, including imprisonment." In rem is a civil forfeiture proceeding as opposed to a criminal forfeiture proceeding.

In its undated Response to the FCC's Citation, LP&L stated that it "does not admit to and specifically denies any violation of the [Communications] Act [of 1934] or any rule pertaining thereto," but "in order to comply with the...Citation, the City of Lubbock files this response." As a result of the Citations issued by the FCC, LP&L's Response stated that representatives from "Lubbock Power & Light met with Paul Leonard, P.E., Area Engineer with Xcel Energy to discuss the alleged findings regarding harmful interference to the reception of amateur communications by amateur licensee W5KFT in Lubbock, Texas." 

Xcel's Response pointed out that the Citation acknowledges "that the source of harmful interference to amateur licensee W5KFT is emanating from more than one power company." Xcel also alleges that it "has been working with amateur W5KFT for a number of years in an effort to identify the source of, and a possible resolution for, the harmful interference he is experiencing. Xcel Energy has a good working relationship with the licensee and has coordinated with him on numerous occasions in attempting to resolve his interference problems." 

Xcel goes on to assure the FCC that it will "retain an outside technical consultant to provide an unbiased assessment of whether the harmful interference to W5KFT is attributable to Xcel Energy's power system and if so, what corrective measures would be required." Edwards reported that on Thursday, August 30, he received a phone call from Paul Leonard, head of Xcel Energy in West Texas. Edwards said he was told that Xcel has contracted with Mike Martin, K3RFI, to come out to Lubbock in October to work on the line noise. "Leonard said they tried to get LP&L to participate with them and Mike, but they refused to do so," Edwards said. Martin owns and operates RFI Services, a firm dedicated exclusively to RFI locating and training. He has been locating interference sources for more than 25 years, solving an average of 500 complaints a year, according to the ARRL Lab. Martin has also given power line interference workshops at ARRL Headquarters.

ARRL Lab Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, said, "I am pleased to see the FCC taking a strong enforcement step in this case. It has gone on for a long time, and this Citation should serve to finally get things resolved. It is unfortunate that some of the power line cases the ARRL is handling can't be resolved without the FCC taking formal action, but I expect that electric utilities across the country will now take notice of this case." 

Most power line noise sources in fact can be located quickly and economically, Gruber said; many utilities in fact handle power line noise complaints as a matter of routine maintenance. "All it takes is a properly trained RFI investigator with modern noise locating equipment. By using noise signature techniques, the utilities would have had only to address those sources actually contributing to the problem. The message to utilities here is clear. Don't ignore power line noise complaints! Don't make the FCC get involved!"

For more information on this story, as well as links to the ARRL report, the FCC's Citations and the utilities' Responses, please see the ARRL Web site <http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2007/08/30/100/?nc=1>. 

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