Big news out of Arkansas. This week, the Arkansas PSC ordered a rehearing of the certificate of need case for the 345 kV line proposed by AEP subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCo). This is an historic win for citizens and the main opposition intervenor, Save the Ozarks.
What was AEP’s problem? The PSC determined that while the regional transmission organization, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), had made a general determination that transmission upgrades were needed in Arkansas, AEP failed to demonstrate that their particular power line was needed. As we have seen before, Save the Ozarks’ expert witness, Hyde Merrill, took apart AEP’s claims about need, pointing to a variety of alternatives that would resolve AEP’s and SPP’s problems more simply and at less cost to rate payers.
Considering all the evidence provided to date, the Commission finds that, whiIe 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 pubIic convenience and necessity, and whether the project represents an “acceptable adverse environmental impact, considering . . . the various alternatives, if any, and other pertinent considerations.” A,C.A. 5 23-18-519 (b)(4).
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 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 as expanding, upgrading, or building lower capacity facilities, including 161 kV 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 grants rehearing for consideration of additional evidence on the routing of the proposed transmission line. The parties should provide additional evidence on SWEPCO’s proposed routes. If SWEPCO chooses to propose or modify a route, it should submit proof that all landowners have received the statutory notice.
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 impacts.
Because the Commission grants rehearing for consideration of additional evidence, the prior grant of the CECPN for Route 109 is vacated. Whether a CECPN for transmission facilities should be granted and, if so, along what route will be determined after consideration of all the evidence.
This is not a denial of the certificate of need. It is an order for rehearing at which SWEPCo and AEP have to provide the specific evidence required by the PSC.
Congratulations to the citizens of Arkansas and Save the Ozarks. If you want to know more about Save the Ozarks and their fight, here is a link to their Web site.