Forum set on SWEPCO power-line proposal; King, Ballinger want to hear residents' concerns, opinions

Friday, June 20, 2014

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Two state lawmakers representing Carroll County have scheduled a public forum on Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s proposed mega-power line that would cross western Carroll County on an approximate 50-mile course from the Shipes Road station near Centerton to a new proposed station on the Kings River outside of Berryville.

State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, and state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, want to hear what local residents have to say about the proposed 345,000 Volt line, which has unified the region in overwhelming opposition to the proposal since it was made public in April 2013.

"We want to hear from constituents on this issue," King told the Carroll County News. "Also, we want people to know how we feel and inform them on some bills we are working on for the upcoming session that are relevant to this."

The public forum will be held on Thursday, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center in Eureka Springs. After brief statements by both legislators, members of the public will be allowed to speak.

Though the meeting is open to anyone, King said he knows of no other public officials -- such as those with the Arkansas Public Service Commission -- planning to attend at this time.

The APSC recently granted its approval for a full rehearing of SWEPCO's application.

Save The Ozarks and SWEPCO in mid-March both filed petitions requested a rehearing on SWEPCO's proposal to build a 345 kV power line across Benton and Carroll counties, its route spanning untouched terrain and neighborhoods alike before connecting to a proposed new substation on the Kings River near Berryville.

SWEPCO requested a partial rehearing, primarily over the question of whether its proposed Route 33, the favorite route of the utility company, was "unreasonable" as was previously decided by APSC Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin.

STO requested a complete rehearing based on a number of laws it says SWEPCO did not follow in order to gain the approval granted by Griffin in her late January ruling. Griffin approved SWEPCO's application to build the line but only approved Route 109, the least-favored by SWEPCO because 25 or so miles of it goes through Missouri -- a state that is seen as unlikely to OK the project within its borders, in part since the utility is not a provider in Missouri.

The APSC, in its ruling issued on June 9, focused much on the question of whether a new line is even needed in this area of the state, and basically said that SWEPCO had not presented enough evidence to prove so, much less prove that the new line needs to be the largest type in existence.

"While the evidence on need is disputed, the record in this (case) does not contain evidence that future reliability requires new or upgraded transmission facilities in Northwest Arkansas," the ruling states. "Considering all the evidence provided to date, the Commission finds that, while some transmission development in the area appears warranted, the record is presently insufficient to determine the need for the particular 345 kV project that has been proposed, whether that project is consistent with the public convenience and necessity, and whether the project represents an 'acceptable adverse environmental impact, considering ... the various alternatives, if any, and other pertinent considerations.'

"Accordingly, the Commission grants rehearing for consideration of additional evidence on the need for, and the potential environmental impact of, the proposed 345 kV project," the ruling continues. "The parties should provide additional testimony and more recent, comprehensive evidence on whether the proposed 345 kV project is needed, whether transmission requirements in the region might be met by alternative options, such expanding, upgrading or building lower capacity facilities, including 161kV lines, and if not why not, the comparative costs associated with the options, the environmental impact of the options, and the long term sufficiency of the options."

The Commission also granted a rehearing on the top of the routing of the proposed transmission line.

"With regard to routing, the parties should provide evidence whether existing 161 kV lines could be upgraded or existing rights-of-way used or expanded so as to limit adverse environmental impact," the ruling states.

The rehearing had not yet been scheduled as of press time. Keep an eye on or our Facebook page for more on this story as it develops.

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