Thursday, June 27, 2013
In an article on the front page of Sunday’s Joplin Globe (June 23, 2013), SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main noted that the 345 kV line cutting through Northwest Arkansas was mandated by the Southwest Power Pool on behalf of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. When they want us to know how badly they want it built and how powerless we’re supposed to feel to stop it, they point to a federal agency, in effect saying, “They are making us do this to you.”
But when it comes to the necessary work on preparing an adequate and conclusive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), federal involvement is nowhere in sight, or at least SWEPCO would have you think so. If the feds were involved, SWEPCO would have been required to present an environmental assessment that met standards set by federal law under the National Environmental Policy Act.
In their Environmental Impact Statement presented to the APSC on April 3 just after the first set of letters to local landowners were sent, SWEPCO noted: “This EIS has been prepared in accordance with the APSC requirements and while it contains many of the analyses normally included in a document prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it has not been prepared for use by a federal agency.”
Anyone with an understanding of NEPA rules and regulations and how they are applied immediately finds the EIS offered by SWEPCO to be deficient on every front. One quick example is that a NEPA EIS must consider a range of alternatives to the plan offered, including alternatives that would of necessity be performed by persons or corporations other than the applicant. The only alternatives presented in SWEPCO’s EIS for the Shipe Road-Kings River 345 kV power line were to either do nothing or to choose one of six proposed routes.
When I saw that one of their proposed routes would traverse hillsides in plain view of Spring Street, while the EIS had claimed that the routes would not be visible from any known overlooks, I knew that the EIS was deeply flawed and its methodology had completely ignored NEPA standards.
So, I have to ask, plain and simple: what is this Shipes to Kings River project, SWEPCO? Is this a project mandated by FERC and one that must of necessity follow NEPA standards? Or is this just something you want to do to us for reasons of your own? Is it your idea to wreck our lands, destroy our views, diminish the value of our properties, damn the quality of our lives and cripple our tourist economy?
In a letter to Frances McSwain, Department of Arkansas Heritage, SWEPCO project engineer Steven G. Thornhill wrote in response to their many concerns, “… there is currently no federal nexus resulting from the involvement of a federal agency in this project.” But, if this is a project mandated by FERC or by the Southwest Power Pool on FERC’s behalf, SWEPCO has a whole lot of explaining to do and they should start by coming completely clean with us.
Instead, they filed a motion for a protective order of non-disclosure with the APSC to keep their assessment of need out of public view.
Knowing that their project was going to wreak havoc on our community, one would have thought that even if the project were truly necessary, they would have insisted that the Environmental Impact Statement meet the highest possible standards. NEPA, even. Instead, they gave us short shrift, short notice and have earned no friends in the process.
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