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Tennessee lawmakers question TVA over electric transmission line from Oklahoma

by Paul Monies Published: May 14, 2014

Concerns over eminent domain and the ongoing fight over renewal of the wind production tax credit have pulled a Clean Line Energy Partners’ transmission project into the spotlight in Congress.

Two Tennessee GOP lawmakers, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Stephen Fincher, sent a letter Wednesday to the Tennessee Valley Authority over their concerns with the Plains and Eastern Clean Line, a $2 billion transmission project to take wind power from the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles to utilities in the southeastern United States.

The lawmakers asked TVA officials to answer 11 questions about the project and the TVA’s memorandum of understanding with Clean Line. Among their concerns are the costs to ratepayers, the reliability of wind power and the use of eminent domain to secure a route for the 700-mile high-voltage, direct-current transmission line.

Congress oversees the TVA, although there have been proposals to sell off the authority floating around for several years. Alexander noted Congress’ oversight function.

“It’s up to the TVA board to decide what kinds of electricity to generate and purchase,” Alexander said in a press release. “But it is the responsibility of members of Congress to provide oversight to TVA policies, and these questions are part of that oversight.”

Alexander has been an outspoken opponent of the wind production tax credit, which expired Dec. 31 but could be renewed and extended by Congress.

Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the costs of wind power were competitive with other new sources for ratepayers in the TVA.

“TVA should and will make a decision that is in its best interests, but we believe this would provide a clean, reliable and cost-competitive source of power that would not increase in price over the next 25 to 30 years,” Skelly told the newspaper.

Federal officials are still studying the environmental impacts of the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. The Energy Department and Clean Line held a series of scoping sessions in spring 2013 across Oklahoma and Arkansas to see what people want included in an environmental-impact statement (EIS).

The Energy Department said it will have a draft EIS ready some time in fall 2014. That will start another comment period. If all goes well, construction is expected to start in either 2016 or 2017. Clean Line said it has enough wind projects lined up at the generation end from potential wind producers in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and western Kansas.

by Paul Monies
Energy Reporter
Paul Monies is an energy reporter for The Oklahoman. He has worked at newspapers in Texas and Missouri and most recently was a data journalist for USA Today in the Washington D.C. area. Monies also spent nine years as a business reporter and...
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