SWEPCO files for rehearing with APSC
Power company aims to reinstate Route 33, do away with Route 109 in Missouri
Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) is hoping to change an Arkansas Public Service Commission decision to build a transmission line through portions of Missouri.
According to a SWEPCO release, the company is asking the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) to reconsider its decision and approve the company's originally proposed 345 kV transmission line route, Route 33, instead of the alternate route, Route 109, approved in February.
"The Commission confirmed the need for this important project for regional electric reliability," said Venita McCellon-Allen, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. "We are seeking a rehearing because we believe evidence was presented demonstrating Route 33 is reasonable and strikes an appropriate balance in routing this line."
Peter Main, spokesman for SWEPCO, said the commission also failed to give good enough reasons to go with the alternate route.
"We believe the commission did not provide sufficient findings to indicate the proposed route. [Route 33], was unreasonable," he said. "We still believe the commission should find our recommended route is the appropriate route."
SWEPCO proposed Route 33 in Benton and Carroll counties in Arkansas. The APSC approved alternate Route 109, which also includes segments in McDonald and Barry counties in Missouri. The APSC approval is only for the Arkansas segments of Route 109, and SWEPCO has not filed with the Missouri Public Service Commission for approval of Route 109.
The APSC has 30 days to respond to the petition, and it may grant or deny the rehearing, abrogate or modify its order without further hearing, or reopen the record for the purpose of receiving and considering additional evidence.
Depending on the outcome of the request, American Electric Power, parent company of SWEPCO, is prepared to pursue regulatory approval for Route 109 in Missouri. The exact location of the Missouri portion of the line is pending further study and public input.
Route 33, SWEPCO's preferred route, is the most direct and shortest route, and does not enter Missouri. However, according to orders from Griffin found at the Arkansas Public Service Commission website, it was eliminated because it would pass within 800 feet of Garfield Elementary School in Garfield, Ark., which is the longest-operating elementary school in Arkansas and on the National Register of Historic Places. Coupled with the plans for a new, five-lane highway to be built in the same area, Griffin struck down the route, in part, because placing a transmission line so close to the new highway "could prohibit the development of a new commercial district in Garfield because of the restrictions on construction in the transmission line right-of-way."
Griffin also said Route 33 would impact Pea Ridge National Park's cultural resources and historic landscape. The park includes one of the Civil War's most intact battlefields.
The route also passes through a portion of the Gateway Public Park, which was constructed in part through a grant that prohibits the placement of overhead electrical lines across the park and provides for the forfeiture of the grant funds if that prohibition is ignored, resulting in a "severe financial burden to the citizens of Gateway if the granting authority, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, demanded the return of the funds."
Route 109, which travels through 8.5 miles of Barry County and 17 miles of McDonald County, would bring about $2.45 million into Missouri via property taxes, according to a SWEPCO internal estimate. SWEPCO said Barry County would receive about $820,000, and McDonald County would get about $1.63 million, based on a tax rate of 7 percent.
If Route 109 still moves forward and Barry County were to receive that money, Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren said 75-80 percent would go to schools, with Southwest R-5 School District being the main beneficiary, and most of the rest would go to roads in the area.
SWEPCO filed its application with the APSC on April 3, 2013. Public comment hearings were held in Eureka Springs, Ark. and Rogers, Ark. in July, and a week-long evidentiary hearing was held in August.
Griffin's orders were issued Jan. 17 and Jan. 21, and became a final order of the commission on Feb. 16.