Texas ALJs recommend approval of 345-kV line in Hale, Lubbock counties

The project is part of LP&L’s plan to transfer a large portion of its system and load from the Southwest Power Pool system to the ERCOT system, the ALJs said

Two Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings administrative law judges (ALJs), in a proposal for decision signed on July 23, recommended that the Public Utility Commission of Texas approved Route 1A with Segment 76M for a 345-kV transmission line in Hale and Lubbock counties in Texas proposed by Oncor Electric Delivery Company, LLC and the City of Lubbock, acting by and through Lubbock Power & Light (LP&L).

That route “best comports with the community values for the area encompassing the transmission facilities,” the ALJs said.

As noted in the filing, Oncor and LP&L filed a joint application with the commission to build a 345-kV transmission line in Hale and Lubbock counties in Texas. Oncor is seeking to amend its certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build the line, while LP&L is seeking a CCN to indirectly build the proposed line.

The ALJs added that the companies propose to build and operate the single-circuit line on double-circuit-capable structures, with the project to connect Oncor’s existing Abernathy station, located north of the City of Abernathy in Hale County, to LP&L’s existing Wadsworth station, located east of the City of Lubbock in Lubbock County.

The project is part of LP&L’s plan to transfer a large portion of its system and load from the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) system to the ERCOT system. The ALJs added that the project is part of the transmission facilities included in “Option 4ow,” which is the transmission plan authorized by the commission in a separate proceeding (Docket No. 47576) to connect a portion of LP&L’s system, which is serving about 470 MW of load, to ERCOT.

The ALJs noted that the companies have agreed that Oncor is responsible for the engineering, design, right of way (ROW) acquisition, material procurement, and construction of the project, while LP&L would pay Sharyland Utilities, LP for those activities as costs are incurred. Upon energization of the project, Oncor would transfer the project to LP&L, which would solely own and operate the project, the ALJs said.

Noting that the companies proposed 18 alternative routes for the project, the ALJs said that they conclude that the record supports approval of the application on Route 1A, with a modified segment 76 (Segment 76M) that addresses concerns raised by an intervenor in the proceeding. Should the commission disagree, Route 1 is a suitable alternative, also with Segment 76M, the ALJs said.

Route 1A and Route 1 are each 32.9 miles long (with “Segment 76M incremental change” for each route of +0.22 length in miles), the ALJs said, adding that Route 1A costs about $65.3m, while Route 1 costs about $64.7m. The proposed Segment 76M to be utilized in Route 1 or 1A, would increase the cost by about $916,000, the ALJs said.

The project area generally consists of rural land with the exception of the areas associated with the cities of Abernathy, Idalou, Lubbock, New Deal, Ransom Canyon, and Petersburg, the ALJs said, adding that land use within the project area is predominantly cropland. The primary landowner concern raised was minimizing impacts to agricultural lands, followed by concern with maximizing distance from residences, the ALJs said, adding that the companies developed route segments to avoid any significant impacts to agricultural activities and to maximize distances from habitable structures where practicable.

The ALJs also noted that no National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)-listed or eligible archaeological or built resources are within 1,000 feet of the alternative route centerlines, nor are any crossed by the routes. Routes 1 and 1A cross areas of high archaeological and/or historic site potential for 7.5 miles and 7.2 miles, respectively.

Discussing environmental integrity, the ALJs said, for instance, that since no federal or state-listed endangered or threatened plant species were listed for Hale or Lubbock counties, construction on any alternative route is not anticipated to impact any threatened or endangered plant species.

The ALJs also discussed generator issues, noting that Golden Spread’s Antelope station and Elk station – collectively referred to as the AECC facilities – are connected to the Abernathy station, which would need to be taken out of service to connect the project into the Abernathy station. Sharyland, LP&L, Oncor, and Golden Spread reached an agreement in a settlement, which was filed as a stipulation. The stipulation noted, for instance, that there needs to be flexibility in the timing and duration of outages at the Abernathy station that would cause the AECC to be offline, consistent with ERCOT protocols, but three weeks is a reasonable estimated time period in which to schedule each such outage if feasible and March would be a reasonable timeframe for Oncor to schedule an outage if feasible.

The project is not expected to preclude or limit a generator from generating or delivering power other than the required outages described in the stipulation, the ALJs said.

Among other things, the ALJs said that the authority granted by the order is limited to a period of seven years from the date the order is signed unless, before that time, the line is commercially energized.

The Office of Policy & Docket Management on July 24 told all parties of record that the commission will consider the proposal for decision at an open meeting scheduled for Aug. 29 at its offices in Austin, Texas. The deadline for filing exceptions to the proposal for decision is Aug. 5, while the deadline for filing replies to the exceptions is Aug. 14, the office said.