Congressional delegation asks for more comment time on Clean Line project

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 142 views 

The state’s congressional delegation – Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs — on Tuesday requested that the Department of Energy (DOE) extend the comment period for the need and feasibility review of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also requested more time.

Clean Line is a proposed multi-state renewable energy project that is expected to deliver wind powered electricity from Oklahoma to markets in Arkansas and other southern states. Some landowners in Arkansas have expressed concerns about eminent domain land acquisition as part of the project.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the legislative delegation asked for a minimum of 60 additional days for comments citing inadequate communication to let stakeholders know they can submit their input on this project.

“The Department is engaged in a new process that justifies a deliberative and thorough review, with greater transparency and public participation,” the members wrote. “The 45-day comment period has proven inadequate.”

The comment period is scheduled to end on June 12.

In January, members urged Secretary Moniz to extend the comment period for the environmental review of the project for additional input from stakeholders. The comment period was extended for one month. The Congressional delegation letter stated, “We strongly urge you to extend the comment period regarding the Department of Energy’s Non-NEPA Review for the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Transmission Project by at least 60 days so that our constituents will have an adequate opportunity to share their views and/or concerns.”

Calling the 45-day comment period “inadequate,” Arkansas Congressional leaders said many stakeholders have not been “effectively communicated” as to the potential impact.

Officials with Clean Line Energy cautiously weighed in.

“Clean Line appreciates that major infrastructure projects like the Plains & Eastern Clean Line should follow processes that allow for substantive public input,” said Mario Hurtado, co-founder and Executive Vice President of Development for Clean Line Energy.

“To date more than 3,500 comments have been made to the Department of Energy about the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. We’re aware of the request for an extension of the comment period that was submitted to Secretary Moniz and the Department of Energy today. To our knowledge, the Department of Energy followed all requirements for public notice on this comment period. As of now, the comment period is scheduled to end on June 12. We will continue to monitor the schedule for any changes and update our stakeholders accordingly,” Hurtado added.

Despite the political maneuvering at this point, Clean Line has continued to advance aspects of the project outside of the regulatory realm. On Monday, French manufacturer Sediver announced plans to set up shop in West Memphis to supply glass insulators for the Clean Line project.