Missouri PSC adjusts procedural schedule on Ameren 345-kV project

The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) recently adjusted the procedural schedule for Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI), acting on different petitions filed by ATXI to shorten the schedule and a group called Neighbors United Against Ameren’s Power Line (Neighbors United) to lengthen the schedule.

Hearings that had been scheduled to take place in December 2015 will begin on Jan. 25, and end on Jan. 29, according to the latest ruling by the PSC.

That Dec. 9, 2015, decision granted ATXI’s request for depositions to be taken by Jan. 15 and to limit requests for additional discovery to new information contained in surrebuttal testimony. Other requests by ATXI to shorten the schedule were denied by the PSC, which noted that PSC staff opposed the briefing schedule suggested by ATXI.

ATXI filed its application with the PSC on May 29, 2015, asking the commission to either find that it does not have jurisdiction, or in the alternative, grant ATXI a certificate of public convenience and necessity to build the $224m Mark Twain Transmission Project. The project is a 95-mile, 345-kV facility that would stretch from the Maywood switching station near Palmyra, Mo., to the Iowa border and a proposed Zachary substation near Kirksville, Mo.

The Mark Twain project is part of a collection of multi-value projects approved by the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) in 2011, and it is designed to improve reliability and reduce congestion in the MISO footprint.

As reported by TransmissionHub, the project includes a 2.2-mile, 161-kV connector line from the Zachary substation to a connection with the existing Adair substation owned by Union Electric d/b/a Ameren Missouri.

ATXI and Ameren Missouri are subsidiaries of Ameren (NYSE:AEE)

ATXI had asked the PSC to approve the application by Jan. 31 so that construction could begin in the summer of 2016 to meet an in-service date of November 2018 established by MISO.

In a November 25, 2015, ruling, the PSC granted a motion of Neighbors United to amend the procedural schedule to give Neighbors United more time to conduct discovery of new ATXI witnesses who filed surrebuttal testimony, including the study of bats in consideration of the proposed line route that could affect maternal colonies of bats.

With the evidentiary hearing scheduled for Jan. 25-29, initial briefs are due Feb. 26 and reply briefs are due March 11, the PSC said in the Dec. 9 decision.

The PSC does not have a time frame for when a decision will be issued in the case, and it does not have a statutory requirement to issue an order by a certain date, a spokesperson for the PSC told TransmissionHub Jan. 5.

ATXI’s urgency in trying to shorten the procedural schedule “is entirely of its own creation,” since it chose to file its application in May 2015, about 10 months after it notified landowners that the transmission line may cross their property, Neighbors United told the PSC in its motion.

Furthermore, the bat studies are due to the route ATXI chose, even after suggestions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation that alternative routes that do not cross bat colonies should be considered, Neighbors United said.