Arkansas congressional delegation meets with Energy Secretary Perry, reiterates opposition to Clean Line project

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 894 views 

Members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation said they followed up on earlier plans to ask U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry to end the agency’s participation in the controversial Clean Line project that is now being held up in federal court.

The entire Arkansas congressional delegation, which includes two senators and four U.S. House representatives, met with Perry on Monday (Sept. 26) and advocated for the preservation of states’ rights and a review of the Plains and Eastern Clean Line Project— a three-state wind-energy transmission line that will stretch across Arkansas.

The meeting with Perry is the latest effort by the Arkansas lawmakers to halt the Clean Line project dating back to June 2015, when U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, French Hill, R-Little Rock, Steve Womack, R-Rogers and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, asked then-DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz to extend the comment period for the need and feasibility review for the $2 billion energy development.

“We thank Secretary Perry for taking the time to meet with us on this pressing matter,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We understand the Secretary inherited this agreement, which has all the hallmarks of the Obama administration’s excessive government overreach. While this problem was not caused by the Trump administration, Secretary Perry indicated that he is committed to a thorough review of how this project was allowed to advance. We stand ready to provide Secretary Perry with all the information needed to make appropriate decisions as the review process moves forward.”

Just after Perry was appointed to the DOE post in March, the Arkansas delegation sent a letter to the former Texas governor reinforcing its opposition to the project by repeating the assertion the project approved without state or local input reflected “vast overreach” by the Obama administration. On Monday, the Republican lawmakers reiterated those objections, saying the Obama administration circumvented the will of the state by signing an agreement to participate in the Clean Line project in March 2016 after the plan was reviewed and rejected by the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC).

However, Mario Hurtado, Clean Line’s executive vice president of development, said the privately-held Houston partnership remains “confident in the thorough review process undertaken” by the DOE in the decision to participate in the multi-state transmission project under Section 1222 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

“The law was passed more than a decade ago with bipartisan support, including then-Congressman John Boozman’s, and signed by President George W. Bush,” Hurtado said in a statement.

In March 2016, Moniz used “Section 1222” of the Congressionally-approved 2005 Energy Policy Act to green light the $2 billion, 720-mile transmission line that travels through three states to deliver wind-power generated electricity.

The line, to be built by Houston-based Clean Line Energy, will deliver electricity from the Oklahoma panhandle and will enter Arkansas in Crawford County north of Van Buren and travel below Alma and Dyer before dissecting Mulberry to follow a line with Interstate 40 through most of Franklin County. From there, the transmission line travels through Johnson County, Pope County, northern Conway County, southern Van Buren County, southern Cleburne County, White County, Jackson County, Poinsett County, Cross County, and exiting Arkansas through Mississippi County north of Memphis.

Once the project is operational, a power station in the Oklahoma Panhandle will convert the incoming alternating current (AC) power generated by new wind farms into direct current (DC) power. The converter stations in Pope County, Ark., and Shelby County, Tenn., will convert DC power back into AC power to be delivered to customers through the power grid, officials said.

Arkansas landowners represented by Golden Bridge LLC and Downwind LLC filed a federal lawsuit in early January to halt work on the project. In recent court filings, the landowner groups and Clean Line have filed dueling motions for summary judgments before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Jonesboro. The court has not yet decided on the motions, but has issued an order setting hearings for Nov. 14.

Clean Line officials have said they plan to begin construction on the project in the second half of 2017 and complete it sometime in 2020.