The Public Utility Commission of Texas, in a Jan. 13 final order, approved Cross Texas Transmission’s application to build a new 345-kV double-circuit transmission line in Brazos, Freestone, Grimes, Leon, Limestone, Madison and Robertson counties.
Cross Texas will use Route 18, which is about 67.8 miles long – the third shortest route of all of the 64 proposed routes – and the project will be built on monopole structures, the PUC said.
Route 18 is estimated to cost about $206.8 million, excluding station costs, and is the fourth lowest cost route among all proposed routes, the PUC said. There are about $5 million in station costs associated with the facilities at the existing Gibbons Creek substation that are included in the Cross Texas project, the PUC said, adding that including those costs, Route 18 is estimated to cost about $211.8 million.
As noted in the order, Cross Texas last April filed an application to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity for a Limestone-to-Gibbons Creek 345-kV double-circuit transmission line in Brazos, Freestone, Grimes, Leon, Limestone, Madison and Robertson counties. Also last April, but in a separate application, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric sought to amend its CCN for a Zenith-to-Gibbons Creek 345-kV double-circuit transmission line in Grimes, Harris and Waller counties.
Together, the Cross Texas and CenterPoint transmission lines, along with other substation and transmission line upgrades, constitute the Houston Import Project (HIP), which ERCOT has deemed as critical to the reliability of the ERCOT system, the PUC said.
The dockets for those lines – Docket Nos. 44649 and 44547 – were consolidated for hearing that was conducted in three phases: the Cross Texas project phase, which addressed the routing of the transmission line proposed by Cross Texas; the CenterPoint project phase, which addressed the routing of the transmission line proposed by CenterPoint; and the need phase, which addressed the need for the HIP.
The PUC also said that the State Office of Administrative Hearings’ administrative law judges last October issued a single proposal for decision for both dockets. The judges recommended that the PUC grant Cross Texas’ application and adopt filed Route 18 as modified under the supporting landowner requests.
The PUC further noted that the judges recommended that the PUC grant CenterPoint’s application and adopt filed Route 1A as modified. The judges last November filed recommended changes to the proposal for decision in response to the parties’ exceptions and replies, the PUC said.
The PUC said that regarding Docket No. 44649, it agrees with the judges’ recommendations and adopts the proposal for decision issued, but because the CCN amendment applications were filed and docketed as separate proceedings, the PUC will issue separate orders for Docket Nos. 44649 and 44547.
As noted in a Jan. 8 document, Docket No. 44547 has been placed on the agenda of the PUC’s Jan. 15 open meeting.
As noted in the final order, the HIP consists of these components:
· Construction of a new 345-kV line terminating into the Limestone and Gibbons Creek substations
· Construction of a new 345-kV line terminating into the Gibbons Creek and Zenith substations
· Upgrades to the existing Limestone substation
· Upgrades to the existing Gibbons Creek substation
· Upgrades to the existing Zenith substation
· Upgrade of the existing T.H. Wharton-to-Addicks 345-kV line
The stated purpose of the HIP is to increase the transmission import capacity serving the Houston area from the northern regions of the ERCOT system, the PUC said, adding that additional generation scheduled to be built in the south will not solve Houston’s generation shortage without the HIP because the north-to-Houston interface acts as a constraint on new generation in the north and south.
The PUC further noted that the total flow levels modeled in the 2014 regional transmission plan coast/east summer peak case – the 3,304 MW that was used for the HIP needs reassessment – have already been exceeded about 8 percent of the time across summer peak 2012-2015.
The PUC also noted that the Cross Texas project will not significantly impact the use or enjoyment of parks and recreational areas, and no adverse effects to archaeological or historical resources are anticipated as a result of the project’s construction.
Furthermore, the PUC said that the project will not significantly impact aesthetic values, and construction on Route 18 will have no significant effect on existing land uses, socioeconomic, geological, hydrological or wetland resources of the area.
The PUC also said that no known occurrences of any native, federally listed threatened or endangered plant or animal species or their habitat were indicated along Route 18, which parallels existing transmission lines for 61.8 percent of its overall length of 357,998 feet, and parallels apparent property boundaries for 0.8 percent of its overall length.
Among other things, the PUC said that if Cross Texas, or any of its respective contractors, encounter any artifacts or other cultural resources during project construction, work is to cease immediately in the vicinity of the resource and the discovery is to be reported to the Texas Historical Commission.
Also, Cross Texas is to minimize the amount of flora and fauna disturbed during construction of the line, except to the extent necessary to establish appropriate ROW clearance for the line. The PUC further stated that Cross Texas is to use best management practices to minimize the potential impact to migratory birds as well as threatened or endangered species.
In addition, Cross Texas is to cooperate with directly affected landowners to implement minor deviations in the approved route to minimize the impact of the line.