Texas ALJ recommends approval of Oncor project

An April 6 proposal for decision by a State Office of Administrative Hearings administrative law judge (ALJ) calls for the approval of Oncor Electric Delivery Company’s July 2017 application to amend a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for its proposed Riverton-Sand Lake 345/138-kV transmission line in Loving, Reeves, and Ward counties in Texas.

The ALJ requested that the case be placed on an open meeting agenda for the Public Utility Commission of Texas‘ consideration; the statutory deadline is July 21.

The ALJ noted that at the conclusion of a March 1 hearing on the merits, all parties appearing at the hearing announced their agreement or non-opposition to the selection of the approximately 38.78-mile “Route 54” for the project. That route is estimated to cost about $49.9m, excluding station costs. The ALJ added that about $8.8m in station costs associated with the facilities at the Riverton and Sand Lake switching stations are also included in the project – including those costs, Route 54 is estimated to cost about $58.6m.

As noted in the proposal for decision, the project consists of a new double-circuit-capable transmission line on 345-kV structures, with one circuit initially installed and operated at 138 kV, that extends from Oncor’s Riverton switching station currently under construction in Reeves County, located along County Road 440 just east of U.S. Highway 285, to Oncor’s proposed Sand Lake switching station to be located about six miles northeast of the City of Pecos on the northwest side of Farm-to-Market Road 3398 in Ward County.

Route 54 uses or parallels existing compatible right of way (ROW) and apparent property boundaries for about 47.2% of its length.

The ALJ added that the project is needed for a number of reasons, including to address reliability violations; to serve load growth driven primarily by increased oil- and gas-related activity; to extend transmission service to an area without it; to support transmission voltage feed to new substations; and to improve substation transformer and distribution feeder performance at existing substations.

The ERCOT regional planning group endorsed the project as a “Tier 2” transmission project, the ALJ said, adding that ERCOT recommended building the project at 345-kV standards in order to meet long-term load growth in the area and support voltage conditions.

The ALJ noted that construction of the project at 345-kV standards would provide synergies with the upcoming Far West Texas group of projects that ERCOT’s Board of Directors recently endorsed, as well as others being studied; allow for future operation of the line at 345 kV; and support future 345-kV transmission system improvements in the area.

Approval of the project on Route 54 would allow Oncor to establish a new Mentone SW substation, as recommended by ERCOT, near the community of Mentone without the need to file an additional CCN application to build an additional transmission line to connect the Mentone SW substation to the proposed transmission line project, the ALJ said.

Route 54 does not significantly impact or adversely affect community values, recreational and park areas, historical and aesthetic values, or the environmental integrity of the area traversed by that route, the ALJ said. Also, no adverse effects to archaeological or historical resources are anticipated as a result of the project’s construction, and aesthetic impacts of the project have been minimized to the extent possible, the ALJ said.

Route 54 would not cross any known habitat for endangered or threatened species, the ALJ said, adding that Oncor would coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service if such species habitats are identified during field surveys. The ALJ also noted that construction of the project on Route 54 would not significantly affect existing land uses, or geological, hydrological, or wetland resources of the area.

Among other things, the ALJ said that Oncor is to cooperate with directly affected landowners to implement minor deviations in the approved route to minimize the impact of the line.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3065 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.