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Judges to hear power line case  

Credit:  By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer, Denton Record-Chronicle, www.dentonrc.com 11 December 2010 ~~

AUSTIN – A north-south battle line took shape Friday as residents and attorneys for large property owners gathered before a panel of judges that will hear testimony on the proposed Krum-Anna power line.

Two judges with the State Office of Administrative Hearings laid the groundwork Friday for about 700 intervenors to participate in a trial for a new 345-kilovolt line that would cross Collin, Cooke, Denton and Grayson counties either north or south of Ray Roberts Lake. A weeklong hearing on the merits begins Monday in Austin.

Part of the state’s $4.93 billion Competitive Renewable Energy Zone project, the Krum-Anna segment has drawn heavy opposition from area residents, especially compared to other segments of this project meant to increase the state’s capacity for wind-generated power to 18,456 megawatts each year.

“If not the largest, this would be the second largest CREZ case we’ve heard,” Administrative Law Judge Tommy Broyles said.

Fellow Judge Craig Bennett said the case is among the five largest cases he’s heard in his career.

The judges will listen to testimony and gather other evidence before making their own proposal for decision to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. They are expected to make that recommendation sometime in mid-February. The PUC commissioners will make a final decision on the route in March.

The judges’ recommendation would be the third recommendation for the routing of the line, which has 96 possible routes – the most Oncor has ever detailed for consideration.

Oncor submitted its application with the southern route between Krum and Anna as its preferred route, which would affect portions of Denton, Cross Roads and Celina, and would cross the Greenbelt Corridor at an existing easement.

Last week, the PUC staff submitted its recommendation for a northern route – a longer and more expensive path around Ray Roberts Lake – through Cooke and Grayson counties, saying in part that it affected fewer habitable structures.

Bennett and Broyles told a crowd of about 100 property owners and their attorneys in a pretrial conference Friday that they would issue an order later that day on the terms of the hearing. Oncor was expected to be called first, with its testimony taking about 10 hours. The PUC would testify next, taking three hours. The remaining 29 hours, probably beginning about Wednesday, would be taken up by testimony and cross-examination of the intervenors – property owners and others granted status in the case.

Representatives of the Greenbelt Alliance of Denton and others people on the recommended routes lobbied to present testimony first, as they were, they claimed, the most adversely affected.

The judges said they hoped the terms would encourage attorneys to work together and avoid redundancies in testimony and questioning.

The estimated 42 hours of testimony could go late into the night on any given day and into Saturday, the judges warned.

Similarly, if they have not been called as a witness, or for cross-examination, intervenors who prefiled testimony don’t have to be present at the hearing. However, they must bring four copies of their testimony and present it to the court reporter in order for their testimony to be accepted into the record, the judges said.

The judges will allow such submissions at any time during the trial, because they will admit all of them at once at the end, Broyles told the crowd.

If they don’t follow that step, then their prefiled testimony doesn’t become evidence in the case, but a “statement of position” instead.

The administrative judges’ proposal for a decision is not binding on the PUC commissioners, Broyles said. In addition, after they issue their proposal, intervenors have the opportunity to respond to the recommendation.

Cooke County resident Bob Fowler came to the pretrial conference with his daughter and their attorneys. He has farms on the F1, F2 and F3 segments of the project. All four of his farms already have Brazos Electric Cooperative power lines on them.

He said he felt he had already given enough to the common good.

“I think we need to spread this good cheer around,” Fowler said.

Source:  By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer, Denton Record-Chronicle, www.dentonrc.com 11 December 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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