SWEPCO requests 6 months to justify line construction

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Electric company needs until January to answer questions

Over a year after asking the Arkansas Public Service Commission to approve the 345 kV transmission line project, the Southwestern Electric Power Company has sent a letter requesting another six months to justify the need for the project.

SWEPCO officials requested in the letter that the company be given until the end of January 2015 to demonstrate the need for the construction of the 345 kV project. The letter states that it will take until then to complete the evaluation of the transmission line project for another rehearing.

SWEPCO Spokesperson Peter Main said the extra time is necessary because of the order issued by commissioners in June asked for more comprehensive and recent evidence. The evidence needed by the commissioners includes the need and routing of the project as well as its potential environmental impact.

SWEPCO attorney David Matthews said in the letter that the Southwest Power Pool, of which SWEPCO is a member, needs time to inform its stakeholders of the evaluation that has been requested by the commissioners.

"SPP intends to conduct the requested evaluation in parallel with its Integrated Transmission Plan process for 2015, which SPP believes will best achieve the comprehensive study results ordered by the commission," he said.

Matthews also said in the letter that the Integrated Transmission Plan's process follows a regular and routine timetable that will be concluded in January 2015 and this is why the SPP needs until then to complete the comprehensive evaluation that has been requested.

Pat Costner, director of Save the Ozarks, an organization aiming to stop the transmission line project, responded to the letter. He says the commission should dismiss the request.

"The commission has concluded that SWEPCO's application is inadequate," he said. "The people in the path of this monstrous proposal have been staring down the barrel of SWEPCO's loaded shotgun for 16 long months, watching their property values drop and prospective buyers walk away. Now, SWEPCO is asking the commission to let them keep thousands of property owners in its crosshairs for another six months."

SWEPCO applied to the commission for the 345 kV transmission line project for the first time in April 2013. Company officials said the SPP had determined that upgrades were needed to improve the long-term reliability for the Northwest Arkansas area as well as to help address system overloads. Southwest Power Pool advised SWEPCO to build the line which would strengthen the transmission grid in the area. Towers for the line would potentially be taller than 150 feet and 75 feet extra on each side of the line.

After months of opposition and protests from landowners and Save the Ozarks, APSC Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin ruled that the line could be built on Route 109, which would have gone 8.5 miles into Barry County and 17 miles into McDonald County. Instead, SWEPCO asked for a rehearing to use a route only in Arkansas. When granted by the APSC, the rehearing vacated the previous approval for the route that would lead into Missouri.

The APSC has ruled that in order to grant the Route 33 transmission line or an alternative route SWEPCO must show the need for the project.

The decision said, "The record is presently insufficient to determine: the need for the particular 345 kV project that has been proposed, whether that project is consistent with the public convenience and necessity, and whether the project represents an acceptable adverse environmental impact, considering the various alternatives, if any, and other pertinent considerations."

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