Date set for Lone Star Transmission trial

Oral arguments have been scheduled before the Texas 11th District Court of Appeals in the ongoing dispute between Lone Star Transmission and Wilks Ranch over the alignment of a segment of a competitive renewable energy zone (CREZ) transmission line that crosses ranch property in West Texas.

An Oct. 11 date was set for hearing oral arguments after the state Supreme Court on Sept. 14 dismissed a petition that it set aside a temporary injunction halting condemnation proceedings issued by a district court. The district court had also previously refused to consider a request by Lone Star that it set aside the injunction.

The dispute dates to 2009, when the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) ordered Lone Star to build a 330-mile transmission line from Scurry County to Navarro County, the line at the heart of the dispute. As with all CREZ lines, the routes for the Lone Star line was determined by the PUCT.

“This route was determined in a lengthy and contested administrative proceeding in which Wilks Ranch knowingly chose not to participate,” Lone Star said in its petition to the Supreme Court. Instead, the ranch owners’ first action was the filing of a lawsuit against the PUCT, Lone Star said.

A trial court in Austin, Texas, dismissed that suit.

Subsequently, the owners filed a counterclaim against Lone Star, seeking to halt construction. According to Lone Star’s Supreme Court filings, the owners’ arguments relied primarily on the Eastland County airport hazard zoning ordinance, “which seeks to regulate construction of overhead transmission lines on one of the three parcels … where Wilks Ranch claims it intends to construct an airport,” the company stated.

Notably, court documents stated that the owners of Wilks Ranch had been instrumental in the creation of the airport hazard zoning ordinance, as they had “paid up to $10,000 for the creation of the [Eastland County] Airport Commission” which adopted the ordinance shortly after it was formed in July 2011.

Lone Star asserted that Wilks Ranch’s counterclaims conflict with the PUCT’s final order regarding the CREZ lines, and that Wilks Ranch lacks standing to enforce the airport hazard zoning ordinance.

The company said it is faced with two conflicting orders: one from the PUCT that directs it to build an overhead transmission line on a mandatory route across Wilks Ranch’s property, and the second from the lower courts that prevent it from complying with the PUCT order.

“The court will determine the next steps after [oral arguments are heard],” Clerk of the Court Sherry Williamson told TransmissionHub Sept. 25.