Monday, April 4, 2016

Boozman Bulletin: Clean Line Approval is a Mistake and “Not a Done Deal”

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said it will partner with a private company, Clean Line Energy, to build a large power line all the way across Arkansas, even though the project was reviewed and rejected by our state. This marks the first time Washington bureaucrats have overruled a state to build this type of project.

Infrastructure is important, and our country built a reliable electric grid without putting Washington in charge of where power lines will be built. Some say Washington needs control so that renewables – like wind energy – can be put on the grid. The facts tell another story. In 2005, wind power capacity was under 9,000 megawatts. Today, wind capacity is 74,472 megawatts and growing. I have supported an all-of-the-above energy plan, including wind, but this new wind capacity has been and can be installed without Washington overruling states.

Thankfully, the Obama Administration’s plan for this power line still faces hurdles. This is not a done deal. The Department must be able to legally defend its decision, and there are big gaps between what the law requires and the decision the Department reached. The plan also faces strong opposition by many in Congress.

The Department is resorting to a small provision that has never been used, from a law passed 11 years ago. This law says that it does not “affect any requirement of any Federal or State law relating to the siting of energy facilities.” In other words, even though the Obama Administration approved the project, many legal experts think that Clean Line and DOE must still return to the Arkansas Public Service Commission for final approval on the project’s location. Other parts of the Department’s decision appear to be arbitrary and unsupported by the facts.

I have asked legal experts and Congressional investigators to carefully review the Department’s decision. We are studying several related documents released by the Department, including the 22-page "Record of Decision" on the environmental review, a 73-page “Summary of Findings,” and a 210-page “Participation Agreement” between the Department of Energy and Clean Line. We will also require the Department to answer a series of questions related to its decision and provide all related documents and evidence.

Again, electric transmission requires approval at the state level. As the Congressional Research Service has noted, “the location and permitting of facilities used to transmit electricity to residential and commercial customers have been the province of the states (with limited exceptions) for virtually the entire history of the electricity industry. State and local governments are well positioned to weigh the local factors that go into siting decisions, including environmental and scenery concerns, zoning issues, development plans, and safety concerns.”
Congressman Steve Womack and I testified previously in Oct 2015 insupport of the APPROVAL Act before the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.
Last year, in an effort to clarify the law and restore rights to Arkansans, I introduced the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land (APPROVAL) Act. Congressman Steve Womack (AR-03) introduced the same bill in the House. The legislation is supported by the entire Arkansas delegation. In October, Congressman Womack and I highlighted the need for this legislation during a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing. Our bill would make it crystal clear that these kinds of projects must receive state approval.

We will continue working to stop this project, not just because it violates property rights, but also because it violates the right of all Arkansans to have their voices heard at the state and local level.

Tags: Boozman Bulletin, Clean Line Approval, a mistake, not a done deal, Sen. John Boozman, Steve Womack, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". This site is an Outreach of the ARRA News Service.

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