DOE ‘Favors’ Southwester Power Administration Participation in Plains-Eastern Clean Line

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is leaning toward participating, through the Southwestern Power Administration, in Clean Line Energy’s Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project, an approximately 700-mile, +/- 600 kV HVDC transmission line that would deliver 4,000 MW of clean energy from the Oklahoma Panhandle to Arkansas and Tennessee.

DOE, in a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) released on Nov. 4, said its preferred action would be to participate in the design, development, construction or operation of the project, or to be an owner in the project.

“The release of the [FEIS] marks the culmination of more than five years of work and the consideration of thousands of stakeholder comments,” Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy, said in a Nov. 4 statement. “We are pleased to have reached this important project milestone and appreciate DOE’s careful environmental review and analysis of the Plains & Eastern project. We look forward to DOE’s Record of Decision (ROD).”

DOE said that its selection of a preferred alternative does not guarantee that the identified alternative would be selected in the ROD for the project.

“[I]dentification of the preferred alternative serves to give the public notice as to which alternative DOE currently favors,” DOE said.

In addition to finding no widespread significant environmental effects that would result from construction and operation of the project, DOE determined that mitigation measures proposed by Clean Line would minimize the potential for environmental effects.

According to Clean Line, DOE could issue the ROD in late 2015, and no sooner than 30 days after the publication of a notice of availability in the Federal Register.

Clean Line said it expects the ROD will include DOE’s decision on whether and how DOE and Southwestern would participate in the project and the agency’s decision regarding the preferred locations for project facilities in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act, the Secretary of Energy, acting through Southwestern or the Western Area Power Administration, has the authority to participate with other entities in transmission projects. In response to a 2010 DOE request for proposals, Clean Line submitted a bid that proposed the participation of the Southwestern Power Administration in the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project.

“The Plains & Eastern Clean Line is a critical component of ... needed transmission expansion and will deliver low-cost, reliable wind power from the Oklahoma Panhandle, where an enormous amount of potential wind farm capacity is waiting to be developed, to Americans in the Mid-South and Southeast United States,” Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement. “The line by itself will carry four times more electricity than the Hoover Dam generates, so this is a very big development indeed in American clean energy.”

Lead image: Electric power lines. Credit: Shutterstock.

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