Thursday, October 10, 2013
In an Oct. 1 filing before the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC), intervenor Jeffrey Danos of Eureka Springs states that the American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) application to build the Shipe Road to Kings River high voltage power line would negatively impact Arkansas Ozark Highlands, an area unique to the state.
“It has triggered a deluge of global public opposition unlike any other case before the APSC,” Danos said. He also said that SWEPCO has not included the entire cost of the project in their estimates as required by law.
“The affects of karst features have not been factored into the cost estimates. SWEPCO cannot provide an accurate estimate without on-the-ground surveys, as admitted by SWEPCO witness Coffman during the hearing,” he said. “Cost effects of rugged terrain and steep slopes were not considered.
Constructability was removed entirely as a criteria during the route selection process of the environmental impact statement (EIS). The APSC has not been presented with a comprehensive cost analysis of the project and the comparative economic merits of the various proposed routes, and therefore cannot effectively evaluate the cost of the facilities and their future impact on ratepayers.”
If the “cost of the facilities” is truly a consideration, the comprehensive construction costs of the project need to be provided and assessed, and the less expensive technological alternatives presented by Dr. Hyde Merrill, an expert witness for Save The Ozarks, should not be dismissed by APSC staff and SWEPCO, Danos said.
He also concludes SWEPCO’s EIS is inadequate, and not compliant with National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) standards as required by the Corps of Engineers for areas where the power line would cross Corps property.
“The Kings River is crossed by all of SWEPCO’s proposed routes,” Danos said. “As noted by the U.S. Department of the Army, all of SWEPCO’s proposed routes also cross Corps of Engineers property. Routes 33 and 109 cross the White River at the headwaters of Table Rock Lake. Proposed Route 108 crosses a portion of Beaver Lake, parallel to Highway 412. The Corps also notes, ‘Any impacts to Corps of Engineers property associated with crossing Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake or the White River will require NEPA compliance, a real estate instrument, a Regulatory Section 10 Permit, and non-statutory mitigation.’ The SWEPCO EIS dated March 2013 associated with this project does not fully address all potential impacts to Corps of Engineers property.”
Another point Danos makes is that the Kings River, White River, Table Rock Lake and Beaver Lake are popular destinations for recreational watercraft, and are historical sources of waterway commerce as defined by federal law. They qualify as “navigable waterways,” and thus the APSC must not allow SWEPCO to cause “unlawful interference” by constructing transmission lines that interfere with areas of the Kings River, Table Rock Lake, White River and Beaver Lake used by recreational watercraft and other forms of water-based commerce related to tourism.
Another point is regarding citizen concerns for health and safety regarding exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMF).
“SWEPCO has failed to address the concerns of citizens with regards to the health and safety of these lines,” Danos said. “Regarding EMF concerns, SWEPCO’s expert witness, Mr. Hosek, stated that the scientific studies presented by intervenors, including an actual case-only study of interactions between DNA repair genes, had ‘no value’ because they were all epidemiological studies. However, as he admitted during the hearing, he made this conclusion without even reading them.
“The EIS presented by SWEPCO also failed to address health and safety concerns with regards to the application of herbicides, and the potential adverse effects of these lines on household pets and livestock.”
Danos concludes that because SWEPCO has failed to conduct on-the-ground surveys along each route, comparative merits of their ecological and environmental disruptions to endangered species, karst features, local wildlife and habitats has not been presented.
He said other flaws in the applications include SWEPCO’s failure to follow state law in notifying landowners potentially traversed by a proposed 345-kiloVolt transmission line from Shipe Road in Benton County to the Kings River north of Berryville.
Danos said in his filing that APSC rules require that the application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) must include proof that owners of property potentially traversed, government organizations and officials have all been notified. But SWEPCO’s application filed March 29 failed to include 40 owners who were “inadvertently left off the list.” Those 40 owners received notice on April 22, 2013. This was followed on June 7, 2013 by another Affidavit of Notice indicating that another “possibly traversed” owner was subsequently mailed late notice of the filing of their application.
“SWEPCO admitted to the use of an incomplete GIS data set when identifying owners of record along the proposed routes,” Danos said. That meant that affidavits of notice for all owners of record did not accompany the application and instead were provided as supplements.
“The owners of record who received late notice were unjustly disadvantaged as they did not receive the same time as other impacted parties to review the application and EIS, raise legal funds, secure an attorney and prepare testimony,” Danos said. “The procedural schedule was not modified to accommodate impacts of the late notice.”
Danos also takes issue with SWEPCO not providing any notice to the potentially traversed property owners in Missouri on Route 109, and not posting a public notice in any newspaper or library in Missouri to inform them that a route had been submitted for consideration that could possibly traverse their property.
“The APSC has no jurisdiction over land in Missouri,” he said. “The alternate Route 109 cannot be considered by the APSC, as without Missouri Public Service Commission approval, it dead-ends at the Arkansas-Missouri state line. The APSC cannot comprehensively compare the impacts and benefits of the proposed Route 109, in comparison to those routes that traverse only lands in Arkansas. SWEPCO would have to provide legal notice to the owners of record in Missouri, solicit their participation, and receive approval from the Missouri Public Service Commission to make Route 109 a viable alternative.”
Danos’s filing also contends that the law wasn’t followed regarding proof of public notice because the legal advertisement was published in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which has only 10 percent circulation in Carroll County and eight percent circulation in Madison County. The law requires the legal advertisement in a newspaper having substantial circulation in the municipalities or counties.
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