Clean Line Energy Partners, a Houston-based company that is focused on erecting and managing high-voltage, direct current transmission lines, is proposing an HVDC transmission line that would span 700 miles and cut through the Natural State.
According to Clean Line, it has been planning the project for the past five years, apparently nearly since its founding in 2009 by Michael Skelly. Landowners in Arkansas, however, tell KARK they only began learning their homes could be in the potential path of the project a few weeks ago.
The company hosted an “office hours” event at the Russellville Chamber of Commerce Wednesday to answer questions and address concerns one on one with property owners and the public.
“I’m a mother of three, I work and do stuff on the side,” said Alison Millsaps. “I’m exhausted, you know?”
But Millsaps took time on Wednesday to sit down with Clean Line representatives, because her family lives on property the company is considering as part of the project dubbed the Plains and Eastern Clean Line.
“It was a shock and it was an unwelcome one,” Millsaps said. “Just because we didn’t know.”
According to Millsaps, she and her husband attended an informational meeting in Mulberry, Arkansas, on April 29 to support friends who believed their property could be affected by the project. But when the couple began to look at the diagrams, they saw their Pope County home highlighted.
“We were looking at the maps and saw the alternative paths and thought ‘That’s going right over our house,'” Millsaps said. “Where we live is at the intersection of two of the alternative routes. We didn’t know what that meant, so we called Clean Line and it seems that we could be impacted.”
According to Clean Line Energy, it doesn’t have a definite route set, but it has submitted several alternative routes that would each span about 700 miles from Oklahoma to Tennessee, cutting through the Natural State.
“It’s intended to deliver the very best wind energy from the plains region of the United States and deliver it to Arkansas,” said Kimberly Randle with Clean Line.
According to its website, and its project paperwork, Clean Line describes the transmission line as:
a proposed 700-mile, multi-terminal ±600 kV HVDC transmission line and associated facilities. The Project will originate in Texas County, Oklahoma, and will terminate at TVA’s Shelby Substation in Shelby County, Tennessee, where it will be capable of delivering 3,500 MW of power. There is also a proposed intermediate converter station located in Central Arkansas that would have the capacity to deliver up to 500 MW of power to the Entergy 500 kV transmission system. The associated facilities will include transmission facilities to connect the converter stations to the existing transmission grid and a collector system comprised of AC transmission lines to connect generators to the western terminus of the line. Plains and Eastern expects to commence construction of the Project in 2016 and place the Project in service at the end of 2018.
According to the Department of Energy’s notice, 13 counties could potentially be impacted in Arkansas, depending on the route the project would take including Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Pope, Conway, Van Buren, Faulkner, Cleburne, White, Jackson, Poinsett and Mississippi counties. Until the route is determined, it will be difficult to determine which and how much of those counties will be impacted.
The project would require up to a 200-foot right of way for metal tower installments. There’s also a proposed intermediate converter station to deliver energy to Arkansans, but who those customers would be is uncertain.
“At this time we are early still in permitting stage and have not finalized customers might be,” Randle said.
According to Randle, Clean Line had applied to be considered a public utility by the Arkansas Public Service Commission. However, the group declined the request. Though, Randle noted it was without prejudice.
According to Randle, the project would be a $2 billion infrastructure investment, representing hundreds of jobs during the two years of construction and millions in tax revenues down the road. Randle added that Clean Line had committed to using General Cable of Malvern, Arkansas, for all of its conductor material.
Landowners like the Millsaps have a lot of questions about property values, eminent domain and health effects.
“We’re going through an eminent domain issue with another company right now,” Millsaps said. “And the idea of a for profit corporation using eminent domain for a money-making venture is something I object to. They talk alot about jobs and revenue and we want that for Arkansas, but we don’t know that we want that at the expense of people’s personal property rights.”
According to Millsaps, the property where she lives currently has several easements and right of ways already on it, including gas lines, transmission lines and the property owner recently offered up a portion of land for road development.
“If you add another transmission line on top of all of that,” Millsaps said. “That property is going to be worthless.”
It was a concern echoed by others at the meeting.
According to Randle, Clean Line is committed to a collaborative approach when it comes to homeowners.
“We continue to have conversations, invite feedback at all stages of the project,” Randle said. “We consider the exercise of the use of siting authority an absolute last resort.”
According to Millsaps, she appreciates Clean Line’s openness and willingness to discuss the issues, but she said she’s having a hard time trusting an entity that is meant to make money.
“They are very nice. Of all the utilities I’ve dealt with, they are the nicest when it comes to interaction,” Millsaps said. “But the fact remains that they want this project to move through. They want this to happen, and it is their business.”
Millsaps and other landowners at the meeting in Russellville expressed concerns over property rights in particular.
“Farmers live in these areas, what will that mean for their land? Will they be able to spray their crops like they need to? What are the impacts of these towers on cattle or other livestock?” Millsaps asked. “We all need to have a discussion as a state and decide what we want to do with this and if it is the best fit for our state.”
At this point, Millsaps is concerned that too few Arkansans are getting a seat at the table of discussion, because so many of them are simply unaware this project is even getting of the ground.
Randle said the company is awaiting an Environmental Impact Statement from the Department of Energy, which it expects to be released in the fall. Once that statement is released, there will be a period of public comment and feedback.
The Department of Energy can ultimately decide not to partner with Clean Line on the project. Randle would not speculate as to whether the project would continue without the DOE’s support.
“We’re focused on this being a success,” she said.
According to Clean Line, the company has three other transimission lines it is working on across the country as well. To learn more about the Plains and Eastern Clean Line, click here. To view maps of the proposed routes through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee, click here.
Some landowners were handing out fliers opposing the project, to view those fliers, click the download documents button.
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