Thursday, September 05, 2013
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, having heard from a large number of constituents who are alarmed about the extra high voltage transmission line proposed by American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), said that he shares “outrage” about the potential negative impacts of the project.
“Thanks for sharing your concerns with me about SWEPCO’s proposed transmission line,” Pryor said on his Facebook page August 23, just days before the hearing on the project began before the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC). “I want you to know I’ve been in contact with them, and that I’ve shared Arkansans’ outrage about the potential effects it could have on our environment and economy. As always, I’ll keep you updated as I continue to monitor this situation.”
Pryor sent a letter of concern to AEP/SWEPCO President and COO Venita McCellon-Allen.
“Hundreds of my constituents in Northwest Arkansas have recently contacted me regarding SWEPCO’s proposed construction of a new 345 kV transmission line between Shipe Road Station in Benton County and the proposed Kings River Station in Carroll County,” Pryor said in the letter to McCellon-Allen. “These Arkansans are rightfully concerned about the potential effects this power line will have on the environment, economy and tourism of Northwest Arkansas. Should this project be approved by the APSC, after justifying its public need, I request SWEPCO take all necessary actions to minimize the power line’s impact on the scenic beauty of Northwest Arkansas, to avoid residential and dense population areas, and to traverse as few major roads and waterways as possible. I continue to closely monitor the developments of this issue.”
Save The Ozarks Director Pat Costner said she was appreciative Sen. Pryor has weighed in on issue and congratulated all state residents who wrote or called the senator.
“The people who contacted the senator should feel gratified that they were able to influence their elected representative,” Costner said. “People need to see these victories and wins, and acknowledge them. That is the basis of participative democracy.”
Another high voltage transmission line, but one that wouldn’t come near Eureka Springs, has Pryor’s support. Pryor has expressed support for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line high voltage 700 KV direct current transmission line that would carry wind power electricity generated in western Oklahoma, southwest Kansas, and the Texas Panhandle to Tennessee and other markets in the Mid-South and Southeast. The 700-mile long line would enter the state at Van Buren going northeast to Tennessee.
Pryor said that project has the potential to create thousands of jobs, and contracts worth $100 million with General Cable of Malvern to supply 25 million feet of conductor for the project. In 2011 Pryor sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supporting the project stating new transmission lines are necessary to transport clean power from typical rural resource-rich areas to more heavily populated urban areas with high demand.
Pryor urged the DOE to review the project quickly and give appropriate consideration to the Clean Line Energy application. The Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) turned down the project, stating that it did not carry enough benefits for Arkansas to outweigh the harm.
In the letter to the DOE, Pryor said the needs of Arkansans are his top priority. “I will not allow them to build anything that would harm Arkansans’ property or negatively impact our state,” Pryor said.
Mikel Lolley, vice president of stewardship with the Treadwell Institute in Fayetteville, said he believes that Pryor coming out with his statement on the AEP/SWEPCO line is significant. Because of campaign contributions and lobbying, legislators rarely express concern regarding a significant request from a major utility cartel. Lolley said opponents of the power line have the best chance of influencing the decision if they can get elected public officials to oppose the project.
“It takes pressure from the elected public officials,” he said. “Then you are speaking the APSC language.”
Lolley also found Pryor’s letter somewhat contradictory.
“In reading between the lines of his letter, I find it curious his support for Clean Line Energy and their proposed transmission line across the northern quarter of the state,” Lolley said. “What is the difference if one route runs slightly north of Eureka and another runs slightly south? The net affect is that both ‘take’ lands from Arkansans for private/public partnerships to move electrons through the state, but the state has limited benefit or access to those electrons. Both have negative environmental impacts.”
Lolley said the Clean Line Energy transmission line passes right through a very sensitive environmental area – the most significant migratory flyway in North America that happens to be squeezed between Harrisburg and the Mississippi River.
“That is one of the foremost duck hunting places on the continental U.S. and huge economic tourism for Northeast Arkansas,” Lolley said. “This is why we need to see the big picture and statewide that these proposed lines (all three of them as Entergy is also planning a 500 kV line) are a ‘taking’ of land. We need to get property rights folks across the state up in arms about private out-of-state corporations – AEP, Entergy and Clean Line – transporting electrons thru the state to our neighbors at a profit the corporations, but not for the people of Arkansas.”
Lolley said state residents need to join together and say these kinds of transmission line project “are not okay in my back yard, not in my neighbors in Northeast Arkansas’ back yard, and not in anyone’s back yard if it is a ‘taking’ of private lands by private corporations for private profit and no long term benefit for Arkansas.”
“If our elected officials and/or state agency via political appointment by politicians roll over on this and allow this, then the sovereign State of Arkansas is in collusion with private enterprise and that is immoral, unethical and potentially illegal, un-American, and just plain dead wrong,” Lolley said.
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