By - Michael Drost

Senate subcommittee chairman blasts Clean Line as comment period is extended

Energize Weekly, June 17, 2015

The chairman of a key U.S. Senate Energy subcommittee blasted the $2 billion Clean Line project last week, asking the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to withhold approval of a construction path and questioning the need for the 700-mile transmission line altogether.

“The project proposes to fill a need that is not present at this time and could force a comparatively expensive source of energy on Southeastern utilities that don’t need the additional generation,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development. “While the states of Tennessee and Oklahoma have approved the project, Arkansas continues to oppose the project. The use of federal eminent domain would strip Arkansas of their traditional property rights.”

Senator Alexander made his comments as he joined the Arkansas congressional delegation in requesting the DOE extend the comment period for its feasibility review of the Clean Line project. The DOE acquiesced to that request late last week, extending the comment period deadline to July 13.

The Clean Line project is a proposed, 700-mile high voltage line proposed by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC that would carry wind-generated power from Oklahoma and Texas through to Memphis, where it would be distributed along transmission lines owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for TVA and other Southwestern utilities.

Alexander says that federal approval of the project adds expensive wind generation that would be all but unaffordable to TVA without generous federal subsidies, while also depriving Arkansas the ability to have a say in what is built on state property. Arkansas regulators previously rejected Clean Line Energy Partners’ application for public utility status, while Missouri regulators have indicated they also will not approve Clean Line Energy’s bid. Because of these developments, Clean Line Energy is teaming up with the Southwestern Power Administration to form a public-private partnership that would be allowed to build transmission lines through Arkansas and other states.

Clean Line’s byzantine permitting process has not stopped it from moving forward with other aspects of the project. Last week, Clean Line Energy announced that it has signed an agreement with French manufacturer Serves Group to supply glass insulators for the project. The pact calls for the Paris-based company to build and operate a manufacturing facility and test lab in West Memphis that will make high-voltage electrical insulators and glass blocks. The agreement is similar to a previous arrangement Clean Line Energy signed with General Cable to manufacture conductor parts from its plant in Malvern.

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