The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), in a Feb. 2 order, approved and adopted a joint stipulation filed last November by American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) AEP Ohio Transmission Company (AEP Ohio Transco) and OPSB staff that purported to resolve all of the remaining issues in the case involving AEP Ohio Transco’s proposed South Caldwell-Macksburg 138-kV Transmission Line Project.
As noted in the order, AEP Ohio Transco in March 2015 filed a pre-application letter of notification that it would file an application to build the line between the South Caldwell substation, passing through the South Olive substation, both located in Noble County, and the Macksburg substation in Washington County, Ohio. AEP Ohio Transco filed its application in the proceeding last May, the OPSB said.
The OPSB said that the company plans to begin construction in winter 2017, and that the project’s estimated in-service date is summer 2018.
According to the company, the line is part of the overall Marietta Area Improvements Project. The company is committed to implementing a long-term plan aimed at enhancing the reliability of the Marietta and surrounding area’s electric transmission and distribution network, the OPSB added. According to the company, the infrastructure in that area has reached an age that demands rebuilding and redesign in order to meet the need of customers in that region. The OPSB further noted that according to the company, the purpose of the project is to provide additional transmission service to the Noble County and Washington County regions to improve electric service reliability in the southeastern Ohio area. AEP Ohio Transco said that the proposed line is part of a broader program known as the Southeast Ohio Area Improvement (SOAI) program.
The OPSB also noted that according to the company, much of the load in the area is currently served by an extensive 23-kV distribution system, which will be retired and replaced with a new 138-kV transmission system. The company has also noted that the project is located in a rural setting, consisting primarily of woodlots, utility rights of way (ROWs), and open land or pasture with scattered residential areas, and minimal commercial, industrial, and recreational land uses.
The OPSB added that the company’s preferred route is about eight miles long, and that 43 residences have been identified as being within 1,000 feet of the preferred route.
In the stipulation, the parties agreed that the facility is to be installed on the company’s preferred route as presented in the company’s application, and as modified and/or clarified by the company’s supplemental filings, and further clarified by recommendations in a staff report. The OPSB added that according to the stipulation, AEP Ohio Transco is to conduct a preconstruction conference prior to the start of any construction activities, and that the certificate is to become invalid if the company has not started a continuous course of construction of the proposed facility within five years of the date of the filing of the application.
Among other things, the stipulation also noted that prior to the start of construction, the company is to develop a public information program that informs affected owners of the nature of the project, specific contact information of relevant company personnel, the proposed timeframe for construction, and a schedule for restoration activities. Also, the company is to adhere to seasonal cutting dates of Oct. 1 to March 31 for the removal of trees, unless coordination efforts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allow a different course of action, the OPSB added.
The OPSB said that it finds that, as a package, the stipulation benefits the public interest by resolving the issues raised in the matter without resulting in litigation. The stipulation reflects consideration of staff’s recommendations and conditions, and addresses the concerns of the general public, the OPSB said.
Based on the evidence of record, the OPSB said that it finds that the proposed project will help ensure that increased electricity demands are met in the future, enhance existing reliability service, increase tax revenue for schools and local government, and assist economic development efforts in Noble and Washington counties, as well as the surrounding communities.
The OPSB ordered that the line be installed along the preferred route, saying that that route has the least adverse environmental impact and, therefore, will benefit the public by avoiding additional unnecessary impacts as a result of the project.