Thursday, August 08, 2013
American Electric Power (AEP) subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) failed to provide proper public notice of proposals to take private property for a new high voltage transmission line, and hence the company’s application to the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) for the 345 kilovolt (kV) Shipe Road to Kings River power line and Kings River Substation should be dismissed, states a motion filed by a Eureka Springs couple, Jeffrey W. and Christina M. Danos.
The Danos family filed a motion Friday before the APSC stating that AEP/SWEPCO’s application does not comply with requirements outlined in Arkansas State Code that require notice of the project be published in a newspaper in the county with “substantial circulation.” The notice was published in the small print legal advertisements of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, but not in newspapers published in Carroll or Madison Counties with wider readership and circulation. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette had the potential to reach only 10 percent of the homes in Carroll County and eight percent of the homes in Madison County.
“Arkansas Democrat-Gazette circulation numbers for Carroll and Madison County evidence a poor choice by SWEPCO, particularly when there are other newspapers that serve these counties with more substantial circulation (i.e. Ozark Trader, Carroll County News),” the motion states.
“Not only did SWEPCO choose a newspaper without substantial circulation, they chose to run the notice on weekdays (Monday and Tuesday), instead of on a Sunday when circulation numbers would have been greater, though still not as substantial as if they had run it in one of the local papers with greater circulation,” Jeff Danos said.
The motion also notes that no advance newspaper notice was posted for Barry and McDonald Counties in southern Missouri, where alternate route 109 is located, and there is no evidence that copies of the application were made available to the libraries in Missouri as required by law.
“Although alternate route 109 is not SWEPCO’s “preferred” route, it does constitute an alternate route to be considered by the commission, and as such these two Missouri counties are areas where the proposed transmission line may be located,” the Danos motion said. “The fact that SWEPCO’s recent rebuttal testimony shifted route preferences, making route 109 their third top choice, makes the lack of application availability for public inspection in any Missouri libraries all the more egregious.”
The Danos family was also not notified by certified mail on April 3 that their property might be taken by power line project. Danos said he received the notice April 23 that their property may be traversed by AEP/SWEPCO alternative route 91. AEP/SWEPCO said it failed to notify about 40 property owners because of a faulty GIS system. In fact, the GIS they used, “AR GeoStor,” cautions directly on its website that data sets are incomplete. Danos said failure to provide timely notification is important because in order to intervene to oppose the proposed project, landowners are given only 30 days.
According to direct testimony from Danos, as of June 6, AEP/SWEPCO was still discovering additional property owners who might be impacted. Danos asks how the company can be considered compliant with state code when impacted property owners are still being contacted more than 60 days after the initial filing.
“Although SWEPCO stated that they would not object to filings of intervention or limited appearance from belated property owners if submitted within 30 days of notification, the scheduled deadlines for filing direct testimony, exhibits and other supporting documents to establish these belatedly notified interveners’ cases were not extended,” Danos said. “As such, SWEPCO’s negligent use of an incomplete GIS data set places these late-notified property owners at an unpropitious disadvantage, making it difficult and less likely for them to participate.”
Danos also takes issue with the underlying study cited by the company establishing the need for the project. The company cites a study conduced in 2007 as impetus for the application.
“It would be irresponsible in any line of work to proceed now with a multi-million dollar project that has been sitting ‘on hold’ for the past six years, without revisiting the assumptions and forecasts contained within, and factoring in any changes that have taken place since its inception,” Danos said. “Changes in the economy and a major recession in the U.S. has resulted in a much different future than was anticipated in 2007. Economic development in Carroll County has been stagnant since 2007. A good indicator of this is the number of construction jobs reported in Carroll County by the U.S. Census Bureau.”
The number of construction companies in 2007 was 81 with 338 employees, compared to 65 companies with 256 employees in 2011. Population growth in Carroll County was only .6 percent between April 2010 and July 2012.
“With a population growth in Carroll County of only .6 percent, and such a small customer base, why does SWEPCO need to build a 345kV transmission line to Carroll County that will carry eight times more power than an existing 161kV line?” Danos asks. “Who is this power really for and where is it going?”
Opponents have characterized the project as a “power line to nowhere” because it ends at a proposed $20-million Kings River Substation in a cow pasture north of Berryville. Danos found a memo attached to his testimony that provides evidence of the project application being incomplete.
“In an inter-office memo from Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. employee Ricky Bittle to Southern Power Pool (SPP) planning director Katherine Prewitt dated April 3, 2012, Bittle states, ‘With AEP filing the CECPN for the 345 kV transmission line from E Centerton to Kings River (Osage Creek) this week, I am concerned about Entergy’s plans to be ready to construct the needed 161 kV transmission lines to interconnect to the Kings River substation. I would hate to think we build a road to nowhere.”
Danos said it appears proposed benefits of the project rely on a line connection with Entergy, whose involvement is contingent on budgetary constraints and approvals from the APSC. Entergy has not yet even applied for the permits from APSC. Danos concludes it appears SWEPCO’s application is premature and it would be irresponsible to approve any route at this time.
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