Electric Transmission Texas advances application for Lobo-to-Edinburg line

Electric Transmission Texas (ETT), a joint venture of American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP) and Berkshire Hathaway’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings, on Oct. 25 submitted an application to the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to amend its certificates of convenience and necessity so it can construct the proposed Lobo-to-Edinburg transmission line.

As planned, the approximately 160-mile, 345-kV double-circuit line would run through the counties of Webb, Zapata, Jim Hogg, Starr, and Hidalgo in Texas and connect ETT’s Lobo substation to AEP’s North Edinburg substation via AEP’s Rio Bravo substation.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) determined in September 2011 that the Lobo-to-Edinburg project is critical to reliability in the region.

“This project is driven by the need to improve system reliability in the Lower Rio Grande Valley by relieving the voltage instability and line loading limitations on the existing transmission facilities supporting the area,” AEP Service Corp. Director of West Transmission Planning Paul Hassink said in supporting testimony. “The project provides an additional bulk power source into the area for system reliability and facilitates the delivery of existing and planned wind generation from the Lower Rio Grande Valley to the rest of ERCOT.”

ETT expects to begin negotiations for right-of-way and land acquisition in May 2013 and to place the project in service in July 2016.

The East Wildlife Foundation of Corpus Christi, Texas, filed a motion to intervene in the case on Oct. 29.

The foundation provides wildlife conservation through research, education, and outreach, as well as oversight of 200,000 acres of habitat on East family properties in south Texas. According to the motion, certain proposed routes of the transmission line cross land owned by the foundation.

An environmental review and route analysis conducted on the project area identified six federal and state endangered plant species and 47 animal species that have candidate status, including the black bear, gray wolf and jaguar. ETT submitted the environmental review to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for routing recommendations.

The PUCT has expedited ETT’s application to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for a hearing and proposal for decision. A decision is due from the PUCT in April 2013.