The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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February 19, 2014

Panel’s silence indicates approval of Arkansas power line

Missouri legislator files bill designed to block steps

Silence this week from the Arkansas Public Service Commission means concurrence with an administrative judge’s order approving a route for a controversial transmission line.

Tuesday was the deadline for the three commissioners to either approve or reject Administrative Law Judge Connie Griffin’s Jan. 17 order giving the green light to Southwestern Electric Power Co. to build the line, which would traverse 25 miles in Barry and McDonald counties and 31 miles in Northwest Arkansas.

SWEPCO requested approval for the 345,000-volt line in order to connect the Shipe Road Substation in Benton County, Ark., to the proposed Kings River Substation in Carroll County, Ark. The project will require 150-foot right of way and 150-foot towers every 800 feet. Route 109, Griffin’s recommended route, would cross at least 136 privately owned properties, according to a list obtained from the grass-roots opposition group Save the Ozarks.

John Bethel, executive director of the Arkansas PSC, said Wednesday that if by 30 days after an administrative law judge’s order, the commission doesn’t approve or reject that order, it indicates the commission’s acceptance.

“After 30 days, that decision becomes the order of the commission,” Bethel said.

SWEPCO spokesman Peter Main said Wednesday that the commission’s final order moves the plan further along.

“We will continue to evaluate our next steps as we seek to complete the project as directed by the Southwest Power Pool to improve electric system reliability in the region,” Main said.

Bethel said commission rules allow official parties that have a concern or objection to all or part of the order to file a petition for a rehearing. The deadline for doing so is March 20, he said.

Pat Costner of Save the Ozarks said the group will file a request for a rehearing before that deadline.

Doug Stowe, also a member of Save the Ozarks, said he was hoping for a more “courageous” response from the commissioners.

“But on the other hand, if I were on the commission, I would stay as far away from this case as I could,” Stowe said. “For them to have thrown the application out would have put them at odds with industry, and to have proposed another alternative would have caused a political firestorm that their careers might never recover from. So they did the right thing for themselves, but not the right thing for the people of Arkansas and Missouri. That is exactly what we’ve learned to expect.”

McDonald County landowner Jamie Harvey said she and other landowners, including several members of her family whose land would be traversed or passed by the line, will be part of a group appealing for a rehearing.

She said she had held onto hope for the past month that the commissioners would reject Griffin’s order to give Route 109 a green light.

“I’m saddened,” she said. “I’m having a hard time emotionally.”

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