A judge’s ruling has just kept the debate going over where to put wind energy transmission lines near Amarillo.
The proposed transmission would connect new substations near White Deer and Hereford.
The battle is between people trying to block routes from south of Palo Duro Canyon State Park to the Canadian River and especially in between.
Administrative Law Judge Shannon Kilgore said in a recent recommendation to the Public Utility Commission that one reason not to send the lines over the canyon or through the gap between Amarillo and Canyon was the public outcry. But ranchers north of Amarillo on the suggested route in Potter County said there was only one public hearing after Sharyland Utilities proposed the route and that was in Oldham County.
“This is not a popularity contest,” states an exception filed Wednesday by attorneys for the Masterson Stinnett Ranch.
But other exceptions by ranchers note there were 900 written comments submitted to the PUC against the northern route.
A diverse group, including ranchers, Southwestern Public Service and the PUC legal department, is pushing for commissioners to find a route away from the Canadian.
The PUC staff notes in its exception that the northern route would cost about $17 million more than one between Amarillo and Canyon that the staff found to be its preferred route. That’s about 10 percent more than the $172 million proposed for the central route. The staff also points out its preferred route follows more existing rights of way, crosses fewer possible historical sites and runs through less ecologically fragile areas.
Rockrose Development and other landowners in the central area have argued the area between Amarillo and Canyon is where most new growth is happening, and the lines would cost them millions of lost development possibilities. However, the PUC staff states there are already transmission lines in the area and the new lines’ route could be adjusted to allow for planned growth.
“Sharyland witness Rob Reid … disagreed that the transmission line along Link P would be harmful to commercial and residential subdivision development since there are many successful developments in Austin, Dallas and Houston which have lattice and single-pole transmission structures routed through them,” the staff exception said.
SPS states it prefers a route across Palo Duro Canyon no closer than 11.84 miles south of the state park. Part of its objection to the northern route is that plan puts wind lines within about five miles of the Harrington and Nichols generating stations.
The SPS exceptions quote one of its engineers as testifying the wind line would cross five or six SPS transmission lines, putting them in danger if a storm or other event put the lines in contact with the wind lines.
“There could be a complete loss of all (Harrington- Nichols) generation,” the exception said.
Ranch owners along the most southern route also oppose running lines through an area with scenic views and plans for wildlife conservation partnerships.
All the parties in the case have until Wednesday to file replies to the exceptions. Dec. 13 is the deadline for commissioners to choose a proposed route or come up with one of its own, said PUC spokesman Terry Hadley.
He said he has seen all sorts of outcomes in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone process from commissioners completely doing away with any route in one area to putting together pieces of routes preferred by different interests.
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