An 800-mile power line project expected to spur $14 billion in clean energy development in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas is one step closer to reality.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission on Friday granted public utility status to Clean Line Energy, which plans to build a $3.5 billion transmission line across the state to carry wind power to Tennessee.
Commissioners said the investor-financed project will be a boon to the state.
“Oklahoma’s abundant wind resources provide the possibility of additional income from royalties for Oklahoma farmers, ranchers and other landowners,” Chairwoman Dana Murphy said.
“Good wages will be available from construction jobs as the power line is built, and more wages will be paid to Oklahomans for the permanent jobs needed to operate the line and its related facilities.”
Commissioner Bob Anthony said the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project would do more than boost wind development in the region.
“In terms of new jobs, infrastructure investment and the future of electricity generation using both wind and natural gas, Oklahoma can receive multibillion-dollar economic benefits from the development of this electric transmission line,” Anthony said. “The project will help reduce American reliance on foreign energy.
“Not only is the wind power ‘made in Oklahoma,’ so, too, is the natural gas that will power generators needed to fully utilize the transmission line capacity available when the wind does not blow.”
Houston-based Clean Line filed its application for utility status in June 2010. The company spent much of the intervening time trying to allay the concerns of those who opposed the project.
Clean Line is the second company to earn “transmission-only” utility status in Oklahoma, joining Kansas-based ITC Great Plains.
Clean Line officials called Friday’s ruling a major milestone for the transmission line project. The line will be able to carry up to 7,000 megawatts of electricity.
The company lost out on its bid to get utility status in Arkansas, but officials said they still are talking with regulators there.
“We have an opportunity to help shape the future of the energy landscape in the United States, while creating new jobs and improving the diversity of America’s energy supply with cost-effective clean power,” Clean Line President Michael Skelly said. “Projects like the Plains & Eastern Clean Line are vital to growing the nation’s clean energy economy.
“We are very grateful for the outstanding support we received from landowners, community leaders, legislators and environmental groups and look forward to continuing to work with state authorities, leaders and communities as our project moves forward.”
The commission’s order does not mean Clean Line can exercise eminent domain to secure property along the power line’s route, general counsel Andrew Tevington said.
“That matter is clearly in the hands of the district courts across Oklahoma,” he said.
The commission’s public utility division will develop new regulations because of the unique nature of the Clean Line project.
“We expect the rules providing for closer regulation of Clean Line and other transmission-only utilities to be ready for legislative approval during the upcoming legislative session,” Murphy said.
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