Thursday, October 24, 2013
American Electric Power (AEP) subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) originally proposed to rebuild 161 kilovolt (kV) transmission lines rather than build a new 345 kV line from Shipe Road to Kings River, an option that would have cost far less and been much less damaging to the environment, property values and tourism.
In filings with the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) this past week, the power line opposition group Save The Ozarks (STO) said that testimony by a Southern Power Pool (SPP) witness – which was not rebutted by SWEPCO – established that SWEPCO initially believed only a 161 kV line rebuild was needed to solve reliability problems that were given as justification for the $117-million project.
SWEPCO clearly errs when it argues in its opening brief that it has sufficiently demonstrated the need for the project as proposed, states the filing by Mick G. Harrison, attorney for STO.
“SWEPCO in its brief clarifies importantly that this 161kV rebuild would have been upgrading existing 161 kV systems,” Harrison said. “Thus, this rebuild alternative would essentially be a no-new-terrain alternative which would have dramatically less adverse environmental impacts and costs than new terrain alternatives. SWEPCO concealed this material fact in its application to the commission and presented an application and testimony in support of that application that misled the commission and the public to believe that SWEPCO actually had concluded that a 345kV line was needed to resolve identified electric power transmission reliability problems.
“However, SWEPCO knew that it was SPP, who is not the applicant, who had rejected SWEPCO’s 161kV line proposal because SPP wanted a 345 kV line to get the benefit of ‘head room’ for purposes of anticipated future projects or development for which there was and is no demonstration of need. SPP’s desire, for its own corporate (or public policy) purposes, for ‘head room’ does not equate to a legally sufficient demonstration of need for a 345 kV transmission line.”
SPP, which is a Regional Transmission Organization that gave SWEPCO a notice to construct the 345 kV line, has said that if the transmission line and Kings River substation are not constructed in a timely manner, the risks to SPP and its members and neighboring utilities are numerous.
No demonstration of need
The filing states that what SPP wants here is not the same as what the public needs, and that the project would achieve a level of reliability beyond what is legally required and which is not justified from a public need or cost-benefit perspective. Harrison said SPP, using SWEPCO as its agent here, is merely using the concept of such super reliability as a pretext for a project that serves its corporate purposes or some private purpose, meaning there is simply no legally sufficient demonstration of need for the project as proposed.
“SWEPCO’s lack of candor in its application to the commission, regarding which party really wants a 345kV line and why, is sufficient reason for this application for a Certificate of Environmental Computability and Public Need (CECPN) to be denied,” Harrison said.
The filing also takes issue with SWEPCO not obtaining environmental permits for the project to submit with its application. SWEPCO maintains it is acceptable under Arkansas law to obtain these permits after the APSC decides whether to issue the requested CECPN. STO said that position is inconsistent with an amendment to Arkansas law in 2011 that requires that the APSC consider the relevant environmental permits as part of the APSC’s deliberations on whether to issue a CECPN.
Arkansas Code states the APSC shall not grant a certificate unless it determines that the major utility facility represents an acceptable adverse environmental impact, considering the state of available technology, requirements of the customers of the applicant for utility service, nature and economics of the proposal, any state or federal permits for the environmental impact, and the various alternatives, if any.
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