AEP subsidiary Southwestern Electric Power Company ("SWEPCO") has been trying to get approval from the Arkansas PSC to construct a 345kv high voltage transmission line through the scenic Arkansas Ozarks region.
SWEPCO has met stiff opposition in the form of Save the Ozarks, a grassroots opposition group that produced thousands of public comments and presented a formidable opposition during evidentiary hearings before the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
Earlier this month, the judge issued her ruling recommending that the Commission issue a CPCN (permit), and selecting one of six routes submitted with the application by SWEPCO. Save the Ozarks has vowed to continue the fight through appeals.
However, the route selected by Judge Griffin, dubbed Route 109, was not SWEPCO's recommended route. SWEPCO's recommended route was a direct Point A to Point B route that remained wholly within the state of Arkansas, but marched through local scenic treasures like Godzilla on the way to Tokyo. However, the judge-selected route also begins in Northwest Arkansas, but makes a quick beeline for the state border, where it meanders through 25 miles of Missouri before dipping back into Arkansas to connect with SWEPCO's new substation. Judge Griffin's selected route avoided some of the damage to Arkansas by pushing it over the border into Missouri.
And here's where the fun starts... SWEPCO is not a public utility in Missouri and has not filed an application for its project in that state. But now it will have to...
Should the Arkansas Public Service Commission approve Griffin’s order, Route 109 presents an unusual challenge, according to Brian Johnson, an employee of American Electric Power who testified on behalf of SWEPCO last fall. Johnson said the choice introduces an additional, unprecedented regulatory process because it crosses a state line.
“The permitting process for Missouri anticipates that any petitioning entity will already be a Missouri Public Utility — which SWEPCO and (American Electric Power) are not. It is unprecedented for a non-public utility to construct a line through Missouri, particularly without directly serving any Missouri customers. The likely regulatory delays and complications that arise from the line route in Missouri are of substantial concern,” Johnson testified.
Sen. David Sater, who is from Cassville and represents Barry, Lawrence, McDonald, Stone and Taney counties, said he is angered by the chosen route. He, Lant and Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, of Shell Knob, met with commissioners last week.
“We encouraged MPSC members to act on behalf of Missourians and not on behalf of people from Arkansas. I think we made our presence felt there, and hopefully they’ll reject this,” Sater said.
Lesson for transmission developers: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.