SWEPCO hearing in Eureka is Monday

Friday, July 12, 2013

EUREKA SPRINGS -- On Monday, an administrative law judge from the Arkansas Public Service Commission will hear local residents' feedback on Southwestern Electric Power Co.'s proposed 345kV transmission line through western Carroll County.

Six alternate routes have been proposed for the enormous power line, crossing approximately 48 miles of Carroll County and ending at a proposed new power station on the Kings River near Berryville.

The hearing on Monday, to be held at the Best Western Inn of the Ozarks Convention Center at 207 W. Van Buren, will run from 9 a.m. to noon; from 1 to 4 p.m.; and from 6 to 9 p.m.,

If everyone who signs up to speak does not get a chance to be heard because of time constraints, the hearing will continue with the same schedule the following day, Tuesday, July 16, at the same location.

A similar structure for a public hearing in Rogers has been set for Wednesday, July 17, at the Embassy Suites Northwest Arkansas at 3303 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, with the same schedule: 9 a.m. to noon, 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m., with an extension to the next day, Thursday, July 18, if necessary.

The hearing style is expected to offer residents a chance to make their opinions known, and those statements are expected to be recorded, transcribed, and put in the permanent record of public comments for the case before the APSC. Each speaker will likely be limited to three to five minutes to make their statements.

Those who speak will be speaking directly to APSC Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin, who will listen and accept any supporting evidence presented by those who sign up to speak. She will then consider all the testimony and supporting evidence, and SWEPCO's testimonies and supporting evidence, and those submitted by intervenor groups such as Save The Ozarks.

Some time late this year or early next, Griffin is expected to recommend to the three-member APSC that they either approve or deny SWEPCO's proposal. The APSC will consider her recommendations but are not bound to abide by them, according to state law.

SWEPCO, for its part, is extending an olive branch of sorts by offering to hear opponents out at the hearing on a one-by-one basis.

"Representatives of SWEPCO shall be available at the hearing each day to meet with those who wish to make statements and to assist them in locating their property on SWEPCO maps," said a press release on the APSC website.

As of this week, 47 entities had been granted intervenor status. Just two of those intevenors are supporters of the project -- Southwest Power Pool and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., SWEPCO's parent company -- but the overhwelming majority are opponents of SWEPCO's proposed transmission line.

Eureka Springs-based opposition group Save The Ozarks also has been granted intervenor status -- which means STO, like other approved intervenors, now has the right to appeal the APSC's decision on the project in court -- and is the only intervenor that is objecting to the entire project and arguing against the need for the project as well as the methods by which SWEPCO has operated thus far.

STO has much information on its website, www.SaveTneOzarks.org, including a summary of its arguments against the project and tips for opponents on how to better make their arguments when they speak at the hearing.

As of this week, the APSC had received upwards of 5,000 comments opposing the project.

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