Associated Electric Cooperative has “significant concerns” with a rule proposed recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers to revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”
“Along these lines, we are concerned that under the proposed rule, transmission rights of way may be considered waters of the U.S.,” Associated Electric Director of Engineering and Operations Roger Clark said in congressional testimony on June 24.
“Transmission rights of way are often simple ditches alongside roads,” Clark said. “These ditches receive road runoff, which could grow cattails even though they infrequently hold water.”
Clark said that EPA and the Corps said they are exempting ditches that drain only upland, but the term “upland” is not defined. “As a result, we will need a permit from the Corps of Engineers to maintain our transmission facilities,” Clark said.
The Associated Electric official also said that classifying transmission rights-of-way as U.S. waters could hinder the cooperative in spraying herbicides for weed control as part of vegetation management around power lines.
The revised definition of waters of the United States could also complicate efforts to license new natural gas pipelines to serve the growing reliance on gas-fueled electricity, Clark said.
“It’s also worth noting that the Corps does have a nationwide permit for land-based renewable energy development, but the permit only allows ½ acre of land to be disturbed and just 300 linear feet of stream (unless the Corps waives the 300 feet limit),” Clark said.
“Given the expanded definitions and uncertainty discussed above, this nationwide permit may have little practical application. For example, most wind farms likely will exceed ½ acre of land,” Clark said.
Clark was appearing before the House Committee on Natural Resources’ subcommittee on Water and Power. The panel held a hearing on the impact of new federal water proposals.
The proposed revised definition would also create concerns about the status of canals used to channel water into the lake that Associated Electric built at its Thomas Hill coal-fired power plant in Missouri, Clark said.
Associated Electric serves parts of Missouri, southeast Iowa and northeast Oklahoma.
Associated Electric has 750 MW of wind generation under contract representing 10% of energy mix.
“Notably, about 6% of our power supply comes from hydropower provided by the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA),” Clark said. Associated is SWPA’s largest customer, receiving 25% of the power produced by SWPA.