The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) in Texas, in an order signed on Dec. 5, adopted a procedural schedule, as amended, in relation to the joint application of AEP Texas North Company (TNC) and Electric Transmission Texas (ETT) to amend their certificates of convenience and necessity (CCNs) for the proposed AEP Heartland to ETT Yellowjacket 138-kV Transmission Line in McCullough and Menard counties in Texas.
As noted in the order, a prehearing conference was convened on Nov. 14, during which the parties in the proceeding discussed the procedural schedule, including certain amendments to discovery response times.
According to the adopted schedule, direct testimony from the companies is due on Dec. 14, and objections to that direct testimony is due on Dec. 21. Among other things, the schedule noted that intervenor direct testimony or statement of position is due on Feb. 8, 2017; staff direct testimony is due on March 1, 2017; a prehearing conference is to be held on April 11, 2017; and a hearing on the merits is to be held from April 11, 2017, through April 13, 2017.
The order noted that a route adequacy hearing is limited solely to the issue of whether the applicant has proposed an adequate number of alternate routes, and is only held if a party files a motion contesting the number of routes and the administrative law judge determines a hearing is necessary. If such a hearing is necessary, it will be held on Jan. 24, 2017, at the SOAH in Austin, Texas.
As TransmissionHub reported, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in October issued recommendations for the proposed project, including that “Alternative Route 5” appears to best minimize adverse impacts to natural resources while also maintaining a shorter route length and paralleling existing corridors for more than half of the route length.
The TPWD said that it “recommends the PUC select a route that would minimize adverse impacts to natural resources, such as Alternative Route 5.”
As noted by the TPWD, AEP TNC and ETT proposed to build a new single-circuit 138-kV transmission line that would initially be operated at 69 kV. The project would begin at the proposed AEP TNC Heartland substation located southeast of the City of Brady on Farm-to-Market Road 2309 in McCulloch County.
The new line would extend southwest until it reaches the existing ETT Yellowjacket substation located in the northwest section of the City of Menard on Frisco Avenue/United States Highway 83 in Menard County, the TPWD added.
Depending on which route is selected in the process, the total length of the proposed project would be about 40 miles long. The typical structure for the project would be either a steel or concrete single-pole design and would vary between 90 to 110 feet in height, depending on clearance requirements, the TPWD added. Typical right of way (ROW) is 100 feet wide, and temporary easements might be required in some areas for additional working space during construction.
In addition to the line, the CCN application also includes the extension of the existing AEP TNC Mason to North Brady 69-kV transmission line into the new Heartland substation. That extension is referred to as a “cut-in” of the existing line, the TPWD added, noting that the cut-in would use one or more of the alternative routing link or links that have been evaluated as part of the 138-kV transmission line project.
AEP TNC/ETT contracted with POWER Engineers to prepare the environmental assessment (EA) and alternative route analysis, the TPWD said, adding that POWER and the companies identified a total of 25 primary alternative routes for the proposed Heartland to Yellowjacket 138-kV transmission line project and conducted an evaluation of those 25 primary routes.
POWER recommended “Route 16,” the TPWD said, adding that the companies believe that the route that best addresses certain requirements is Route 16 for the AEP TNC Heartland to ETT Yellowjacket 138-kV transmission line, and “Link Z3” for the cut-in of the existing Mason to North Brady 69-kV transmission line into the Heartland substation.
POWER’s decision to recommend Alternative Route 16 as the route that best balances the PUC routing criteria related to land use, ecology and cultural resource, was based primarily on, among other things, that the route is the fifth shortest route, at 37.4 miles; is tied with two other routes as having the second fewest habitable structures within 300 feet of the proposed ROW centerline, with eight; and is tied with one other route as having the sixth longest length of ROW paralleling existing transmission ROW, at 4.8 miles.