Dispute over West Texas CREZ line may be close to resolution

A dispute involving the location of a competitive renewable energy zone (CREZ) power line in West Texas appears close to resolution.

During an Oct. 9 meeting, county commissioners in Eastland County, Texas, approved a request by Lone Star Transmission that would allow the 345-kV power line to cross county roads at four different points, enabling the developer to route the line away from the site of a planned regional airport.

The road crossings include three permanent crossings, and a fourth crossing that would only be used during the line’s construction.

Mike Grable, president of Lone Star Transmission, told TransmissionHub Oct. 12 his company is “working hard on a reroute” and that the approval of road crossings “is a significant step on the way to finalizing a reroute” but wouldn’t comment further because an agreement on rerouting the line has not been finalized and because litigation on the matter is still pending.

An Eastland County commissioner was equally cautious.

“This is still not disposed of,” Commissioner Robert Rains told TransmissionHub, echoing Grable’s caution that the agreement still must be finalized.

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. As with all CREZ lines, the route for the Lone Star line was determined by the PUCT and would have taken the line across Wilks Ranch.

According to court documents filed by Lone Star, the owners of the ranch “knowingly chose not to participate” in the administrative proceeding that determined the route of the line and instead filed suit against the PUCT. That suit was later dismissed by a trial court in Austin,Texas.

During the proceedings, ranch owners pointed to a proposed regional airport they said had been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2007 but for which construction had been put on hold because of the economy.

In July 2011, Eastland County formed an airport commission, which adopted an airport hazard zoning ordinance shortly after its formation. The ranch owners subsequently cited that zoning ordinance as a reason the line should be rerouted.

Lone Star countered with a suit challenging the legality of the ordinance. The suit asserted that Wilks Ranch’s claims conflicted with the PUCT’s final order regarding the CREZ lines, and that Wilks Ranch lacked standing to enforce the airport hazard zoning ordinance.

That suit is still pending.

Nonetheless, Rains is optimistic that resolution is at hand, and that his community will reap the rewards.

“Of course, the airport will be a benefit to the county, and the power line will be, too,” Rains said. “Just to have them completed will be a benefit to everybody involved.”

Lone Star Transmission is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE).