LITTLE ROCK – U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman, both R-Ark., said Friday they are seeking to kill a planned $2.5 billion energy transmission project across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee by blocking funding for it.
In a joint news release, Cotton and Boozman said that Thursday they filed a proposed amendment to an appropriation bill for Department of Energy programs. Cotton is the lead sponsor.
The amendment would block funding for all projects carried out under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the law that the Energy Department has said it will use to partner with Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston to create the proposed Plains & Eastern Clean Line.
The 705-mile overhead transmission line would deliver up to 4,000 megawatts of wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to converter stations in Arkansas and Tennessee, with 500 megawatts staying in Arkansas. The energy would be distributed across several states in the region and would be enough to power more than 1.5 million homes, according to the Energy Department, which gave final approval to the project last month.
Arkansas’ congressional delegation and some landowners have objected to the project, raising concerns that the federal government is bypassing state regulators and will take private property through eminent domain.
“The Department of Energy’s decision to move forward with the Clean Line transmission project despite the objections of Arkansans is executive overreach at its worst,” Cotton and Boozman said in their release. “Despite our best efforts to work with the Department of Energy, Secretary (Ernest) Moniz has proven himself unwilling to compromise and we must take action to stop this assault on Arkansas and the rights of private property owners.”
The amendment also would temporarily prevent the Energy Department from approving other projects, which Cotton and Boozman said would restore ” the traditional right of states to approve or disapprove transmission projects based on state and local interests rather than the interests of federal lobbyists and private companies.”
Clean Line said in a statement Friday, “The Cotton amendment freezes spending authority for public/private partnerships and creates a hostile environment for private investment in Arkansas. This amendment makes it harder to build energy infrastructure, kills Arkansas jobs and increases the cost of energy for Arkansas consumers. The Cotton amendment does not save the federal government or taxpayers any money.”
The company said the amendment is “a clear example of political meddling targeted at one company and changes the rules in the middle of the game, after tens of millions of private dollars have been invested. The Cotton amendment hurts American consumers and business by undermining the law that was passed under a Republican administration with bipartisan support.”
Alison Millsaps, spokeswoman for Golden Bridge, an organization of landowners and allies formed to oppose the project, said in a statement Friday, “We are always appreciative of the senators’ efforts to protect the state and its citizens from unnecessary federal overreach. As an organization, we are focused on ensuring that affected landowners understand their substantive and procedural rights, and we remain committed to exploring all available options to help Arkansas landowners avoid the many significant impacts attributable to the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project.”