Stephenville High School Cafeteria was booming with inquiring landowners Monday night as Lone Star Transmission hosted an open house for their proposed transmission lines, which cross several central Texas counties, including Erath.
According to a fact sheet, Lone Star, a subsidiary of FPL Group, is a company that plans on constructing, owning and operating Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) high-voltage electric transmission facilities in Texas.
Lone Star first notified landowners of the proposed lines in a public notice, published in the Empire-Tribune several days prior to the meeting.
“As Texas energy needs continue to grow, safe, reliable electric service depends on adequate transmission,” the notice states.
“At the order of the Texas Legislature, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) created five geographic Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) in west Texas and the Texas Panhandle. These are areas for the development of new wind generation plants. The PUCT also ordered utilities, including Lone Star, to build over 2,300 miles of new transmission lines to connect these zones with other parts of Texas.”
Lone Star is planning on constructing and operating more than 300 miles of the approved lines, which will begin in Scurry County, west of Abilene, and reach to Navarro County, south of Dallas/Fort Worth. The proposed lines will cross 15 counties, including Eastland, Palo Pinto, Erath, Somervell and Bosque.
The construction, which is scheduled to begin in 2011 and be complete by 2013, would include the installation of 120 to 140 foot poles and three 345-kilovolt substations, located in Navarro, Hill and Shackelford counties. The new transmission lines are estimated to house enough energy to power 2.5 million homes.
While the PUCT has determined a need to bring wind energy to consumers, companies that will provide their transmission, such as Lone Star, must still complete an approval process.
“Lone Star must apply for approval, or certification, with the PUCT to construct a new transmission line,” the fact sheet states. “This is known as an application for certificates of convenience and necessity, or CCN application.”
Utilities must complete several steps before filing a CCN application, which includes defining a study area, collecting and reviewing data, identifying routes, holding public meetings and completing an environmental assessment report. Monday’s meeting was part of the public input Lone Star is required to obtain during this process.
Lone Star has a target date of March 22, 2010 for submitting its CCN application. At that time, the company will notify affected landowners, government officials, municipalities and utility companies.
An intervention period will begin and last until April 21, 2010. If the CCN is uncontested, it will receive a PUCT review and a staff recommendation before proceeding to the proposal for decision (PFD) by an administrative judge.
If the CCN is contested, it will be referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for a trial. During the trial, a pre-hearing conference, discovery, pre-filed testimony, hearing on merits, briefings and a proposal for a decision would be presented.
If cleared through SOAH, the CCN would then continue on to the PFD portion of the process.
Once through the PFD process, the CCN application will proceed to a final order, which is expected to be delivered in September 2010. If it is denied, Lone Star can follow legal proceedings, including a motion for rehearing and an appeal to the PUCT decision.
If the application is approved, Lone Star will begin project activities, which include surveying, permitting, right of way acquisition, engineering, ROW clearing, equipment installation and cleanup.
“Once the CCN is approved and the route is selected, Lone Star Transmission plans to contact affected landowners and others to discuss easement acquisitions and rights-of-way,” the fact sheet states. “Once all documents are obtained, design and construction of the facilities are expected to proceed.
“As Lone Star Transmission prepares for construction, we must acquire easement rights along the path of the transmission line. These easement rights allow us to construct, operate and maintain the transmission line.”
During this phase, Lone Star representatives would meet with landowners directly affected by the lines and ask for permission to obtain access to the property to “survey structure locations and centerline of the right-of-way and conduct environmental surveys.”
“Once the surveys and negotiations are complete, individual landowners will be offered payment based on fair market value for the easement rights to their land,” the fact sheet states.
“The relationship with landowners doesn’t end once the easement rights are obtained. Lone Star views this as a long-term partnership and will continue to collaborate with landowners during the construction, operation and maintenance phases of the project.”
If negotiations cannot be completed with the landowner, Lone Star has the option to proceed with eminent domain.
Lone Star reminded landowners that all exhibits presented at this time are preliminary. Maps and informative handouts, which were at the meeting, can be viewed on Lone Star’s Web site at www.lonestar-transmission.com.
For more information, call 1-877-278-8097.