Thursday, September 05, 2013
Most intervenors opposed to the proposed 345 kilovolt (kV) transmission line from Shipe Road to the Kings River proposed by America Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) were represented by attorneys. Jeff and Christina Danos of Eureka Springs were not, and yet Jeff Danos was regarded by court watchers as one of the more active and effective intervenors in the case. Danos, who is not an attorney, is a self-employed web designer, Internet marketer, area and event promoter, digital artist, local historian and musician.
“I think Jeff was extraordinarily effective,” Save The Ozarks (STO) Director Pat Costner said. “His performance at the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) hearing this past week to consider AEP/SWEPCO’s application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) was just superb. Jeff is an excellent researcher. He has the skills and intelligence to gather and distill information and put it to good use, which is exactly what he did. He was our best and strongest ally among all the other intervenors.”
Danos has provided a summary of what he feels were the most important points revealed/confirmed during the hearing:
- AEP/SWEPCO’s application, as submitted, is incomplete. Several items required by state law were not contained in either the application or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), such as the economic impact on the local community and, of course, the lack of substantial notice within some of the counties that stand to be affected by the project. However, the judge didn’t allow discussion of that last point since there is a current motion to dismiss pending on it. Also missing was consideration of karst terrain on constructability and cost, and any thorough visual aesthetics’ analysis.
- Some factors that could affect route viability and costs were not considered during the route evaluation process, such as constructability.
- AEP/SWEPCO’s witnesses’ understanding of the project, its overall scope, and alleged need were quite different from what was presented by the Southern Power Pool (SPP), the regional transmission organization that gave the directive for AEP/SWEPCO to build the transmission line. AEP/SWEPCO insisted that this was only for local reliability, but SPP revealed a much broader-based regional plan. Neither organization seemed to think that the APSC should be concerned with validating the need, despite the fact that the letter “N” stands for Need in CECPN.
- Entergy confirmed that interconnections would be required to make this work, but no application has thus far been submitted by Entergy to build those.
- APSC staff witness Clark Cotten apparently did very little to validate information presented by SWEPCO in their application and EIS. He also failed to exhibit a comprehensive understanding of the checklist of items clearly presented in Arkansas State Code required to be included with an application.
- SPP admitted the need that was detailed in the Notice to Construct (NTC) is no longer an issue, and only other less severe contingencies (which were not included in the NTC) are now driving the project. In pre-filed testimony, STO expert witness Dr. Hyde Merrill proposed less costly, less impacting alternatives to solve the remaining contingencies, but “we weren’t allowed to discuss them since SWEPCO/SPP did not cross-examine Merrill at the hearing.”
- SWEPCO has failed to properly address all the concerns presented by state and federal agencies with regard to the project, including concerns surrounding the project’s proximity to Pea Ridge National Military Park.
- SWEPCO attorneys appeared very confident (even smug) throughout the hearing, as if there were no chance of the project being denied. However, at the very end of the hearing, SWEPCO’s attorney made a last-minute motion that would allow them to supplement their original application with new information, after-the-fact. It’s my belief that this is an attempt to belatedly correct the many deficiencies exposed during the hearing. Mick Harrison, STO’s attorney, challenged this motion, and the judge asked for each attorney to put their arguments in writing so that she could consider them. Most of the laws in Arkansas State Code require that an application “include” such information at the time of filing, or that it must “accompany” the application. In my opinion, allowing SWEPCO to try and correct their application at this time would not be just, and would defeat the purpose of those laws.
Danos said overall, he feels the hearing went very well.
“I believe there is more than enough evidence on record that would justify a denial of the project in full by the commission, or if necessary, the court of appeals,” Danos said.
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