Thursday, February 20, 2014
The Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) failed to submit a separate order by the deadline Tuesday that would have modified the decision of the APSC Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin selecting the northern Route 109 for the highly controversial proposed 345 kV American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) transmission line from Shipe Road to the Kings River.
The lack of action by the APSC means that five other proposed routes for the power line are off the table unless SWEPCO makes a new application to the APSC. All routes are being opposed by the citizen group Save The Ozarks (STO) for a project that has drawn the largest number of negative public comments of any project in the history of the APSC.
Route 109 is the longest of the alternative routes at 56 miles. It goes north from Shipe Road station in Benton County into Missouri, and then east for 25 miles along the Missouri state line to north of Gateway. The route crosses the White River south of the town of Beaver before going southeast paralleling the Kings River for two miles before it crosses the river near the proposed new Kings River substation.
SWEPCO had earlier indicated that Route 109 was one of its least preferred routes because of the difficulty of obtaining regulatory permission in Missouri. SWEPCO has said it will pursue filing for permission for the route from the Missouri Public Service Commission (MoPSC).
SWEPCO has no customers in Missouri, so the state would receive major negative impacts to private property without receiving any benefit. But after the ruling selecting Route 109, SWEPCO said it would proceed with obtaining permission from the MoPSC.
Three bills have been filed in the Missouri Legislature that seek to block the SWEPCO power line. A bill introduced in the Missouri House of Representatives states the MoPSC “shall lack jurisdiction to approve the construction of the SWEPCO line along Route 109.”
A bill introduced Feb. 6 by Sen. David Sater of Cassville would prohibit SWEPCO from using eminent domain for the project in Missouri. Sater said the bill protects his constituents’ property rights and sends a clear message to SWEPCO and the Arkansas PSC that they need to address “an Arkansas problem in Arkansas.” A similar eminent domain bill has also been filed in the Missouri House of Representatives.
APSC Director John Bethel said any parties to the proceedings who are opposed to the judge’s ruling have 30 days to file a petition for re-hearing. Save the Ozarks Director Pat Costner, said, “We will, of course, appeal the commission’s approval of SWEPCO’s proposal. In the interim however, there are steps all of us who are on Route 109 need to take. The first step is to go to the STO website, download and complete the ‘No trespass’ letter and send it by certified mail to the people identified in the letter. The second step is, if approached by a SWEPCO land agent, speak with the agent only in the presence of an attorney, preferably an attorney with eminent domain experience.”
STO has opposed the line on the ground that is unnecessary because less expensive and less damaging alternatives exist, and SWEPCO failed to adequately address adverse impacts to the environment, property values and the area’s tourism economy.
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