Swepco Ratepayers Could Be on Hook for Cost of Turk Plant

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Aug. 10, 2009 12:00 am  

PSC Chairman Paul Suskie: "If the Court of Appeals' ruling stands, I don't see how a plant can get built anywhere in the state of Arkansas, period."

"Piecemeal consideration of all the matters concerning a generating plant and its transmission lines corrupts the spirit and letter of the law," the appellate court wrote.

Suskie said that Ed Dillon, an attorney with Entergy in 1973 who helped the PSC staff write the legislation, filed the first application for the White Bluff coal-powered plant in Redfield just months after the legislation was passed. Dillon, with first-hand knowledge of the law, separated the plant application from the transmission lines application.

"It's pretty compelling to me when the attorneys that wrote the law then months later apply it that way," Suskie said.

The Court of Appeals disagreed and was unmoved by the "we've always done it this way" argument.

"Significantly, the APSC's procedure of separating generating plants from transmission lines in CECPN proceedings has never been challenged in a court proceeding. The mere fact that the practice has gone unchallenged cannot create a presumption that it is proper," the appellate court wrote.

Suskie said the PSC contemplated the transmission lines in the first proceeding, but didn't approve the transmission line sites until the second hearing. However, he said that in the first proceeding to approve the plant, the PSC dictated certain rules that Swepco must follow when siting the transmission lines.

The PSC addressed the transmission lines "on the front end because in the orders, we put conditions upon it. And some of those conditions were, 'You could not run transmission lines over sensitive areas and the interveners' property,'" Suskie said.

In this case, the hunting clubs were some of those interveners.

The determination of the sites where the transmission lines would run, however, occurred during a different proceeding. And the plaintiffs argued that affected parties, such as property owners, should know the whole plan, including the sites of the transmission lines, before a plant is approved.

Part of the commission's duty, though, is to make the process "as expeditious as possible." Separating the hearings does just that, Suskie said.

"If you did all those at once, it would extend the time frame. ... It could easily run two years, but the statute requires the Arkansas commission to do it as 'expeditiously as possible,'" Suskie said.

"In the way this case was handled, the Turk plant was approved. And then after it was approved, [Swepco] continued with the processes for approvals, the air permit and so forth. Well, after that took place, we were still in the process of siting the transmission lines."



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