Objections to the APSC regarding SWEPCO's proposed 345 kV Transmission Line project between Shipe Rd and Kings River
October 3, 2013
Arkansas Public Service Commission
Attn: Secretary of Service Commission
P.0. BOX 400
Little Rock, AR 72203-0400
Re: Docket No. 13-041-U SWEPCO's Application for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need
< The only answer to the SWEPCO Do-Over request is Do-Never >
At the August 26 APSC hearings, AEP lost the right to do business in Arkansas. We take threats seriously, and we don’t want 40 more years of coal power. If AEP wants to earn the trust of the people of Arkansas, AEP and APSC need to re-think their approach and embrace distributed renewable grid-tie solutions, a Win-Win for all. A reliable SPP grid is an oxymoron.
This project is not for the long term benefit of the people of Arkansas I respectfully object to the all the six routes.
We learned this week SWEPCO filed a motion to “Do-Over” their application, as they had requested at the last hour of the August APSC hearings. Why would SWEPCO get one more chance given that they had seven years to prepare their game plan?
Many questions have been asked recently in the media regarding the apparent conflict of interest between APSC, SPP and AEP. For at least the last 10 years, 17 out of 17 SWEPCO applications have been rubber stamped by APSC. None withdrawn, none denied.
The “Do-Over” AEP strategy has been tried before in other states, most recently for the PATH project that crippled the economy and the morale of the West Virginia community and the many people that spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars opposing AEP and the Public Service Commission. There is a strong parallel to the unfair threat to the people of West Virginia and the people of Arkansas. And we don’t like it!
The PATH AEP 765 kV transmission line Proposed by AEP in 2009 from St. Albans, WV to Kemptown, MD was very similar to the SWEPCO 345 kV project to sell power in Sothern Missouri:
The line was clearly not needed, especially with electricity use declining since the 2008 economic collapse
The true purpose was hidden in the 2009 application
The proposed route would run through subdivisions, farms, parks, businesses, schools and historic sites.
The application was revised in 2011, a “Do-Over”
The revised total cost $2.1 billion has a return on equity to AEP of 14.3% guaranteed by FERC.
With construction costs coming out of consumer pockets, the electric companies can’t lose and will make a huge profit selling cheap, coal-fired electricity to eastern cities.
A grass roots WV organization, Stop PATH, managed to stop this monster AEP project in August 2012. We will Stop AEP/SWEPCO in 2013 in Arkansas. We refuse to waste our time and savings playing AEP and APSC games for the next three years.
PATH 2009 AEP 765 kV 2009 from St. Albans, WV to Kemptown, MD
The SWEPCO request to “Do-Over” must be denied. Why would APSC reward David Matthews and Stephen Thornhill, project manager for Burns & McDonnell Engineering and his team of experts for being lazy, overconfident, inaccurate, playing hard ball with the opposition, cutting side deals with Walmart and other large intervenors, failing to notify all land-owners on time (contrary to the sworn statement in their April 3, 2013 application where they said they had used the information from the County Tax Records) allowing Bryan Johnson lie to the court when asked about the plans to dismantle the line in 36 years when he clearly stated the cost of $10 million and the plan to return the ROW to the landowners.
The SPP website shows that John Bethel, Chairman Colette Honorable, Commissioner Olan Reeves and a long list of current and past APSC key employees are members of SPP. This is not good. It creates reasonable doubt of the fairness of APSC decisions: we pay the bills and we elect public officials.
Distributed renewable grid-tie energy solutions that today are used in most countries to offer safe, secure, reliable, affordable, scalable electric power are superior to 345,000 volt transmission lines. SPP is well aware of the failures of 345 kV lines. They discuss these problems on the SPP website!
The recent PJM September outages clearly show that grid MAINTENENACE not additional transmission lines improve grid reliability:
“PJM Outage Scheduling Guidelines indicate transmission owners should avoid scheduling any outage in excess of 5 days during the summer peak period. Beginning in September, PJM begins to accept planned maintenance outage requests. PJM performs detailed outage studies on the Bulk Electric System transmission elements (above 100 kV) and generators to be removed from service for scheduled maintenance and upgrades.”
AEP and SPP are not trying to “keep the lights on” they are trying to make a profit and keep Arkansas using coal power. Maintenance is a necessary expense that lowers financial quarterly results. Transmission lines are AEP assets used to sell bonds in financial markets. Ask a decent accountant, she will explain how P&L thinking drives dumb short term strategies.
If AEP wants to stay in Arkansas, they need to come clean and provide services based on real local customer demand, maintaining a reliable grid, and promoting renewable distributed grid-tie energy solutions. This is what we need, is what we want to pay for, the best solution today for Arkansas.
AEP can lease solar panels, install roof-top systems, and use the free power of the Sun working with the community instead of threatening to take over our homes and private business with the blessing of APSC.
“AEP is a Clear and Present Danger to the people of Arkansas,” the title of the online petition asking APSC to deny in full SWEPCO’s Application to build a transmission line from Shipe Road Station to the proposed Kings River Station, is an urgent call for action that in a few weeks has over 2,560 and comments from people asking APSC to deny AEP eminent domain to build one more transmission line for the first time in over 10 years.
The urgent request is due to the suggestion made by John Bethel and other APSC officers at the APSC hearings that Route 33 will be approved but can be challenged on appeal.
APSC should stop granting AEP the power of eminent domain to threaten our community. Private property rights are the foundation of our society. Honest negotiations have to be based on a spirit of compromise and mutual respect, not on the threat of force. It is difficult to imagine AEP offering comprehensive benefits agreements when AEP can walk away from the table and remove people by force.
Case in point: The Gentry Wildlife Safari, a 400 acre family owned and operated park, the pride of the Gentry community and the only attraction that draws hundreds of thousand repeat visitors and students, has been condemned with a 345,000 Volt transmission line traversing the park. Leon Wilmouth, owner of the Safari started by his father 50 years ago with one backhoe and three buffaloes, worked 34 years for AEP is on disability on the AEP payroll. Out of loyalty for AEP, fearing reprisals living in SWEPCO country and having to take care with his family of the wildlife and visitors to the park on a daily basis, did not file an intervention. The United States Department of Agriculture, responsible for the health of the wildlife in the park, was ignored by AEP.
There is not one reference to the Safari in the EIS or the transcript of the trial decided by Judge Griffin in April 2013. Leon has a final court date on October 16, 2013 and the wildlife must be out of Park 4 the next day. AEP had a variance of 600 feet from the center line to move the transmission line but decided to traverse the Safari to save a few dollars.
If AEP is willing to ignore reason, logic and respect for Gentry community and Leon’s family, ignoring the life threatening stress of capture and sedation for wildlife with no place to go, what can we expect for Pea Ridge National Military Park, the Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area, the Gateway Elementary School, and the Beaver flood area, just to mention a few of the places on Route 33?
Why would APSC assume Route 33 will be approved when the case has not even been in the hands of the APSC Commissioners?
Transmission lines are not created equal, and they are totally different from Distribution lines, a fact ignored by naïve people that don’t even see the mess of power lines all over the place. 345,000 V transmission lines are not for the benefit of the Arkansas people traversed by the line; they are only to allow AEP/SWEPCO/Entergy to sell electric power in Southern MO, interstate, at a profit. Wheeling electrons with the help of third party utilities at a profit is unfair and illegal competition for the Missouri utilities, and for the people of Arkansas paying the cost of the line and the associated environmental and economic permanent costs, plus the health hazards of herbicides, water contamination, stray currents, power leaks, EMF/ELF health risks, with no benefits at all for the people of Arkansas, similar to the negative impact of the Turk Plant, should not be allowed by the APSC, paid to protect the welfare and future of Arkansas.
The AEP 2010 West Virginia PATH boondoggle should not be allowed to happen again in Arkansas in 2013.
We pray Judge Griffin will deny the SWEPCO request for a “Do-Over” and deny the false and invalid application in full, for the long term benefit of the people of Arkansas. There is no public need, as clearly demonstrated in the August Hearings.
The only answer to the SWEPCO Do-Over request is Do-Never.
Dr. Luis Contreras
Eureka Springs, AR 72631
1. SWEPCO scrutinized as APSC hearing continues in Little Rock
August 28, 2013, Kristal Kuykendall, Lovely County Citizen
“Later on Tuesday morning and throughout the afternoon, SWEPCO witnesses who worked on their Environmental Impact Study, required as part of the utility's construction application, were grilled by STO lead attorney Mick Harrison. Harrison asked hundreds of questions about not only the "experts'" actual qualifications and work experience, but primarily about the methods in which the study was conducted.
At the heart of the issue was a ranking system the study authors used to evaluate which of more than 100 potential routes would the most feasible for SWEPCO -- and the most likely to gain APSC approval.
Early in the cross-examination of study author Stephen Thornhill, associate project manager for Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co. in Rogers, STO attorney Harrison noted that much of the Environmental Impact Study for the proposed SWEPCO project included the exact same text of earlier EIS's submitted by Burns & McDonnell for other utility project applications to the Commission.
Thornhill replied that yes, previous studies were used as a "template" for this one, and some of the wording may not have been ultimately changed or taken out.
The suspect wording including references to endangered bats believed to be making their homes in the many caves along portions of the three proposed routes, but particularly along Route 33. On an early draft of the EIS, Thornhill in a side comment had written "double check this data; in most cases (the bat habitat areas) can easily be spanned" or built around.
Harrison questioned Thornhill as to why he'd made a conclusion about the bats before he had apparently seen any of the data regarding their locations along the routes. Thornhill replied that he'd based his conclusion on "typical" findings from EIS's for other projects.
Next Harrison quizzed Thornhill about the EIS's rating system for the potential routes that had been identified. Seven criteria were used to "score" each route -- but one of those criteria, "Constructability" or how difficult construction would be in each location along the route, had been deleted from all consideration during the EIS revision process.
"I thought we took this out?" Thornhill had written as comment on a draft revision of the EIS. He was referring to the poor Constructability scores of the preferred proposed routes, Harrison noted, who asked why Thornhill and his coworkers had, in mid-process, decided to change the scoring system after seeing the results.
"There were concerns that that Constructability score was prejudicing the results and the decision was made to remove the Constructability criteria and scores," Thornhill replied, prompting a barely audible gasp by opponents in the audience.
"Wouldn't each criterion have the potential to prejudice the outcome by having a score that would be considered poor?" Harrison asked him.
"Yes," he answered, before continuing with an explanation of sorts. "In doing the Constructability score, we found that the routes with fewer segments had better scores, meaning those routes were supposedly more constructable even though in many cases those routes were longer and had much rougher terrain -- so they had better scores, the routes with fewer segments, even though we had determined they shouldn't have.
"In looking at the different criteria, we said this doesn't make sense, and the problem was the Constructability scores were out of whack," Thornhill added.
"How would you know a certain route's score was out of whack -- simply because it scored low -- just by looking at it?" Harrison inquired.
"The analysis just didn't make sense," Thornhill said. "Looking at the actual route, it didn't pass the smell test you might say."
"Were routes that could have been dropped retained as a result of the Constructability criteria being removed from the scores?" Harrison asked.
Here, Thornhill hesitated, eventually replying: "No, but the Constructability score process was flawed. So the rankings within that were useless to this analysis. We were not able to develop a Constructability score that made sense in these circumstances."
Harrison noted that trying to shape the scores and methodology to "make sense in these circumstances" seemed like a backward method in a study that was supposed to be scientifically sound.
Thornhill defended the study and scoring system, and said that removing one criteria would not likely "wholesale change" a route's score substantially. He could not, however, say for certain that removing the Constructability score hadn't altered the SWEPCO routes' scores substantially. He also could not say whether any of the six originally proposed routes -- particularly the preferred Route 33 -- had scored poorly on Constructability. Instead, Thornhill argued that it wasn't really very relevant anyway.
Since a score is an average of several criteria, removing one criterion is not going to change a score of a route that much, Thornhill said. "A low score is going to be a low score."
"Well, really, that's only true depending on which criteria you end up deciding to use," Harrison retorted.”
2. PJM planning fails – blackouts ensue, September 9, 2013
After years of wrongly insisting that we needed billions of dollars worth of new transmission lines to avoid "brownouts and blackouts," PJM Interconnection's incontrovertible transmission planning system failed massively on Tuesday, leaving thousands sweltering in record-breaking heat when it instituted rolling blackouts in order to avoid a cascading failure.
3. EDITORIAL: Surprised at APSC response to questions raised about conflict
September 26, 2013, Lovely County Citizen
Editor's note: Following is a letter that raises the issue of the perceived and apparent conflict of interest between leaders and staff at the Arkansas Public Service Commission and Southwest Power Pool, which is the organization that oversees utilities in our region and that ordered SWEPCO to build its mega-power line in Carroll County. Below that are our own additional informational tidbits and comments.
4. Online Petition to APSC: Deny the SWEPCO Application in full
5. Distributed Renewable Grid-Tie Energy Solutions for NWA
A grass roots website with information on how Germany, Japan, Walmart, Apple, Sun-Chips Frito Lay, Eureka Pizza, and many smart US companies use renewable energy along with the existing power grid. This website is updated weekly with the latest information and solutions” a “for fun and for the people of Arkansas organization” not a “for profit organization.”