Texas regulators to consider proposal for decision regarding transmission project on March 15

The Public Utility Commission of Texas will consider a proposal for decision regarding a 138-kV transmission line project at a March 15 open meeting to be held at the commission’s offices in Austin, Texas, according to a Jan. 31 document from Commission Advising & Docket Management.

As noted in the proposal for decision, Rayburn Country Electric Cooperative has filed an application to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build the new single-circuit Dent Road Expansion to Wieland Switch 138-kV Transmission Line Project in Hunt County, Texas.

The project would connect expanded portions of the existing Dent Road substation owned by Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS), located about 0.65 miles east of the intersection of State Highway (SH) 34 and County Road (CR) 1570 near Greenville, Texas, to the proposed tap point switch/meter station (planned to be named the Wieland switching station), located along Rayburn’s existing Blackland to Wieland 138-kV transmission line, located about 0.5 miles southwest of Wieland, Texas.

The line would be about 6.85 miles to 10.90 miles long, depending on the final route selected, the filing added, noting that the route alternatives under consideration range in estimated total cost of $9.2m to $12.6m for transmission and switching station facilities. The switching station is estimated to cost about $3.7m, and that cost is the same for all proposed routes.

The filing also said that the project is one component of the Greenville Area Project, which was evaluated and accepted by the ERCOT Regional Planning Group to address system reliability issues in the Greenville area. For its role in the Greenville Area Project, Rayburn would build the Dent Road Expansion to Wieland Switch project and the associated Wieland switching station.

The Dent Road Expansion to Wieland Switch project is not needed to improve wholesale competition, the filing added, noting that the project is needed to address the reliability needs of existing and future end-use customers, based on actual and forecast electric load and identified system limitations in meeting that load. However, the project improves wholesale competition to the extent that increased reliability enables wholesale competition, the filing noted.

The administrative law judge (ALJ) finds that Rayburn has met its burden of establishing the need for the project. Route selection was the only contested issue in the docket, the filing added, noting that the application proposed 20 route alternatives, with the parties principally debating between Routes S and T.

The ALJ concludes that the record supports approval of the application on the estimated $6.6m, 8.19-mile Route S, but, should the commission disagree, the estimated $6.4m, 7.91-mile Route T is a suitable alternative, the filing said. Rayburn represents that all 20 route alternatives are acceptable to it, the filing noted.

To develop potential routes for the project, Rayburn retained Burns & McDonnell to perform and prepare an environmental assessment and alternative route analysis (EA). In the EA, Burns & McDonnell determined that Route T best satisfies the applicable routing criteria, while Rayburn identified Route S as the best route, the filing added. The two routes are very similar and differ only in that Route S uses segments 46 and 48 instead of segment 47, which is used on Route T.

Commission staff urges that Route T is the better alternative, the filing added. Of the intervenors who submitted testimony in the case, all but one support either Route S or T, with the remaining intervenor testifying that he prefers Route S to Route T, but that either line would have a negative impact on his property, where he operates a cemetery and funeral home.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) selected Route N as its preferred route, with Routes S and T as its second and third choices, respectively, the filing added.

Of the intervenors who filed non-evidentiary position statements, only one outright opposed Routes S and T. The filing added that because Routes S and T are the primary routes supported in the parties’ evidence and briefing, the ALJ’s routing analysis is largely limited to those routes, although all of the routes were considered.

Of the 20 alternative routes under consideration, Route T has the fewest number of habitable structures within 300 feet of the ROW centerline with 16 structures, while Route S has the third fewest number with 22 structures.

Route S and T do not cross any parks and recreational areas, nor do any come within 1,000 feet of the ROW centerline of those routes, the filing added.

Routes S and T have one recorded cultural resource site within 1,000 feet of the ROW centerline, the filing said, noting that Route S has 5.81 miles of ROW across areas of high archaeological and historic site potential, while Route T has 5.13 miles.

Any of the routes proposed for the project would have some temporary and permanent aesthetic impacts, as it is virtually impossible for a new transmission line not to have some visual impacts, the filing said.

No federally listed endangered or threatened species have been recorded from Hunt County, so the project would not adversely affect any listed species. The filing added that the only state-listed aquatic species of potential occurrence in the study area is the threatened alligator snapping turtle. Some federally protected avian species may migrate through the study area, including the piping plover. However, the normal flying altitudes of most migrant species are greater than the heights of the proposed transmission structures, and the project would be designed following certain standards that would minimize the attractiveness of the structures for perching and nesting, the filing added.

No significant impacts to wetland resources, ecological resources, endangered and threatened species, or land use are anticipated as a result of construction of the project, the filing noted.

When compared on certain measures, Route S has slightly less potential environmental impact than Route T, but given the similarities between the two routes, there appears to be no significant advantage or disadvantage in terms of the environmental integrity factor for those routes, the filing said.

According to the Jan. 31 Commission Advising & Docket Management document, the deadline for filing exceptions to the proposal for decision is Feb. 20, while the deadline for filing replies to the exceptions is Feb. 27.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3056 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.