Thursday, August 22, 2013
Many people in Northwest Arkansas are going to be keeping a close eye on the hearings in Little Rock beginning Monday, August 26, before the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) regarding one of the more controversial issues ever to come before the commission: the American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) application to build a 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Shipe Road in Benton County to near a proposed new $20-million Kings River Substation north of Berryville. The case has generated widespread public opposition by landowners and other residents about impacts of building the largest transmission line ever seen in Carroll County.
Concerns have been raised about environmental impacts, devaluing of property and such serious blights to scenic views that it would harm the tourism economy. Nearly 5,000 comments opposing the project have been filed with the APSC. Save the Ozarks (STO) Director Pat Costner attended Friday’s pre-hearing meeting in Little Rock, and said they were told how the hearing would proceed: Intervenors will make brief (10-minute) opening statements. First up will be SWEPCO and the two intervenors in favor of the proposal, Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp (AECC).
Proponents will be followed by Save the Ozarks and intervenors opposed to the project. This may take several hours given the number of intervenors. There were originally 47 intervenors and, as of August 9, APSC listed 26 opposition intervenors. However, some have recently withdrawn and/or asked to be excused.
Following intervenor testimonies, public comments will be heard. People who offered comments at public comment meetings in Eureka Springs and Rogers will not be allowed to speak again at this hearing. Those who make comments will be limited to three minutes, which is expected to be strictly enforced.
By Monday afternoon, AEP/SWEPCO will likely present its case and expert witnesses. Cross-examination of these witnesses by other intervenors and Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin will probably continue through most of Tuesday. Then AEP/SWEPCO’s allied intervenors, SPP and AECC, present their expert witnesses who are subject to cross examination by other intervenors, and finally by Judge Griffin. Following that, opposing intervenors present their case and expert witnesses, and these witnesses are subject to cross examination by SWEPCO and its allies, and Judge Griffin.
At the end, all intervenors make closing arguments. Costner said while it is hard to determine how much time it would take for each portion of the proceedings, it seems likely that STO witnesses should be prepared to appear by Wednesday. STO is encouraging people opposed to the project to come to Little Rock on Monday to make public comments.
“The most important people to make public comments are those who are traversed but not notified,” Costner said. “We have identified some in Arkansas. However, evidence suggests that AEP/SWEPCO did not notify the landowners on route 109 in Missouri although they are included in the list of landowners that AEP/SWEPCO claims to have sent letters of notification.
“According to AEP/SWEPCO’s list, route 109 traverses 165 parcels of land in Missouri (51 in Barry County and 114 in McDonald County). The list has the names and, in most cases, the addresses of the owners of each parcel. It is very important that these people come to Little Rock and tell Judge Griffin that they were not notified.”
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