Is SWEPCO hoping opponents run out of money?
Becky Gillette

Enough already. That is the gist of a request made by Save The Ozarks (STO) to the Arkansas Public Service Commission requesting the APSC deny the American Electric Power (AEP)/Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) request to take until the end of January 2015 to provide additional information requested by the commission regarding need for a proposed 49-mile-long high voltage transmission line through the Ozarks.

Earlier this year the APSC ruled that SWEPCO had not made adequate arguments about need for the line, which the company would improve electric reliability. STO has contended that SWEPCO wants to build the line in order to maintain profitability in an era when electrical sales are decreasing because of energy conservation measures.

A letter from STO attorneys Mick Harrison and Gregory Ferguson to the APSC said if the commission declines to dismiss the application, the commission should order SWEPCO to reimburse STO’s and other intervenors’ expert witness and attorneys’ fees going forward,

“Absent such an order, SWEPCO and SPP (Southern Power Pool) can simply continue to make flawed applications, year after year, in the hope that interveners eventually run out of money or energy and give up, an outcome which will not serve the public interest and which will be contrary to the intent of the Arkansas Legislature,” STO attorneys wrote. 

STO Director Pat Costner said it is unlikely that a restudy will make a credible case that SWEPCO should continue to propose a 345 kV transmission line, or any new transmission line. 

“Meanwhile, hundreds of landowners and business owners have been facing loss of both their property and property values for more than sixteen months,” Costner said. “Their ordeal will continue for another year or more if the APS continues proceedings while SWEPCO conducts its new evaluations.”

In the event that the commission chooses not to deny SWEPCO’s application and close the docket, STO proposes two procedural alternatives: The first is to allow STO and other interveners the same amount of time to review the restudies by SWEPCO and the SPP as the 6-7 additional months requested by SWEPCO and the SPP to carry out those restudies. If this alternative is not acceptable, STO requests the commission to direct SWEPCO and SPP to provide STO and other interveners all relevant materials as the study period proceeds, and allow certain STO-designated individuals to participate as stakeholders in the process of reevaluation in the same manner as SWEPCO’s and SPP’s other stakeholders. 

  Costner said it would be in everyone’s best interests, even SWEPCO’s, if the commission simply denies SWEPCO’s application.  “People here can get on with their lives and, after the new studies are completed next year, SWEPCO can start over with a clean slate if they’re still convinced there is a public need for a 345 kV transmission line,” Costner said.

Local real estate sales have been impacted where properties are located next to or within the view of homes and other properties, including commercial development. Because there have been so many different routes considered, and only people whose property will be taken for the project were officially notified, there are still many people who aren’t aware of the project’s potential impact on their property. 

“I visited with a potential seller last week and after all the attention, they were still not aware that the lines were crossing close their home,” a local real estate agent said. “They, like all of us affected, are going to have to disclose this to any potential buyers. Any buyers we talk to want nothing that is near or in view of these huge towers. No one wants to make a large real estate investment to then find out that they could have a power line on their property.”

The impact goes beyond sales of property. People who are on the proposed routes are reluctant to spend any large amount of money investing in their home if they may not be able to see a return on those expenses. SWEPCO did not respond to a request for comment prior to the deadline.

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