SWEPCO wants more time  
Becky Gillette

Opponents of the massive 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line proposed by American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) are not pleased that the company has announced it will take until January 2015 to comply with the latest order by the Arkansas Public Service Commission (APSC) to more provide updated, comprehensive evidence on whether the proposed project is needed or if transmission needs might be met by less damaging alternatives.

“The commission has concluded that SWEPCO’s application is inadequate,” Save the Ozarks (STO) Director Pat Costner said. “By all that’s right, just, and merciful, why don’t the commissioners walk their talk and dismiss SWEPCO’s application? The people in the path of this monstrous proposal have been staring down the barrel of SWEPCO’s loaded shotgun for sixteen long months, watching their property values drop and prospective buyers walk away. Now SWEPCO is asking the APSC to let them keep thousands of property owners in its crosshairs for another six months. That’s almost two years as sitting ducks for SWEPCO’s private property grab.”

Doug Stowe, a member of the STO board of directors, said the delay is just SWEPCO trying to manipulate the commission to gain a favorable timeframe for their review.

“They plan to hold us hostage for the next six months while they review data and build a stronger case for a power line that is clearly not needed or wanted in Benton and Carroll counties,” Stowe said.

When Jeff Danos, an intervenor against the power line, and STO expert witness Hyde Merrill challenged the need for the power line at an evidentiary hearing before the APSC in August 2013, SWEPCO was able to instantly review the information, claiming such reviews were routine, Stowe said.

“After learning that the commission can no longer allow them to present a caseless case, they now ask for time to do the in-depth review that they should have done before the power line was thrust upon us,” Stowe said.

In early June the APSC granted a request by STO for a rehearing regarding the need for the transmission line. STO maintains that there are less expensive and environmentally damaging alternatives to the line. The APSC found that while some transmission development in the area appears warranted, the record is presently insufficient to determine need for the project, and whether the project represents an acceptable adverse environmental impact considering the various alternatives.

In a July 3 letter to Commission Secretary Michael Sappington, SWEPCO attorney David R. Matthews said it would take until January 2015 for the Southern Power Pool to respond to the commission’s ruling. SPP is a regional transmission organization covering parts of nine states that operates under the authority of the North American Electric Reliability Corp. SWEPCO said it has been ordered by SPP to build the power line, but opponents point out that SWEPCO is one of members of the SPP, hence, played a major role in that decision.

The letter from SWEPCO said that in response to the order from the APSC granting the rehearing, SWEPCO and SPP representatives met to discuss the protocol and timetable for complying with the commission’s request.

“SPP intends to inform its stakeholders of the evaluation requested by the commission,” Matthews said. “SPP will share a general study approach with its stakeholders and offer opportunities for their involvement in the process. SPP intends to conduct the requested evaluation in parallel with its Integrated Transmission Plan process for 2015 that SPP believes will best achieve the comprehensive study results ordered by the commission. The ITP process follows a regular and routine timetable that will be concluded in January 2015. Thus, SPP anticipates that the comprehensive evaluation requested by the commission will be complete at the end of January 2015.”

Matthews said he is aware of the keen interest in this docket by all potentially affected parties and wanted to let everyone know what the likely timetable for gathering and presenting a comprehensive evaluation would entail.

The commission has indicated it will issue a separate order to set a procedural schedule for additional testimony and hearings in the matter.

Given the lapse of time between now and when the SPP study process will be completed, SWEPCO plans to file an official Notice of Completion of the SPP evaluation in the docket within seven days of SPP’s presentation of final study results.

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