On Sept. 16, 2009, LCRA Transmission Services Corporation (LCRA) and the Staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas filed a motion to delay the filing dates of some CREZ Priority Projects and requested emergency relief in the form of Commission action at the earliest opportunity including, if possible, at the Open Meeting for Sept. 24, 2009.
LCRA states that, after consulting with Staff and after reviewing considerable data, routing proposals, and comments submitted by landowners, members of the public, elected representatives, and governmental officials, it has concluded that a delay in the filing dates of its Priority CREZ CCN applications is appropriate. “The additional time is necessary to expand the study area to adequately study certain additional routes and routing concepts suggested by certain landowners, governmental officials, governmental bodies, and Staff. Staff concurs in this request for additional time and for expedited, extraordinary relief.
The affected projects are the Gillespie-Newton, Twin Buttes-McCamey D, and the McCamey D-Kendall-Gillespie CREZ transmission line CCN projects. The motion requests a delay until Oct. 28, 2009, for the Gillespie-Newton 345 kV project, Jan. 15, 2010, for the Twin Buttes-McCamey D 345 kV project, and July 6, 2010, for the McCamey D-Kendall-Gillespie project. LCRA held open houses about the proposed projects in May 2009 and has reviewed and considered public comments, alternative routing proposals submitted by members of the public and elected officials, correspondence, and resolutions passed by county governments affected by the preliminary route segments. During that time, LCRA also has consulted with Staff to ensure that its CREZ applications are complete and contain a “robust number of geographically diverse proposed routes.” Additionally, LCRA has taken to heart the comments expressed by the PUC commissioners in recent Open Meetings that LCRA should include in its CREZ applications enough routes to ensure the Commission has a sufficient number of routes from which to choose.
LCRA has communicated to Staff the need to request additional time to investigate and study two particular routes in the McCamey D-Kendall project, the “I-10 Route” and the “Mason-Menard Route.” Staff also has communicated its desire that LCRA explore a routing concept that would combine certain preliminary links shown in its Open House exhibits into one or more routes that would merge portions of both of LCRA’s currently-proposed CREZ CCN projects into a single corridor as they approach the Kendall Substation.
LCRA states that it had not planned to include these concepts in its applications. In an effort to address the public’s concerns, Staff’s suggestions, and the Commission’s desire to have a sufficient number of routing options, LCRA is willing to explore these routing concepts. It will not have sufficient time to do so, however, without the requested delay.
In its showing of good cause for the delays, LCRA notes that its four CREZ Priority projects have generated tremendous interest in the areas affected by the proposed transmission projects. More interest than any other CCN application on which LCRA has previously worked, citing the recently controversial Clear Springs to Hutto 345 kV transmission line. The initial meetings have generated approximately forty to fifty additional meetings, 1,000 questionnaires, and hundreds of telephone calls.
The most-affected project by the consideration of the new routes is the McCamey D-Kendall-Gillespie route. The other rwo applications will not be greatly affected but LCRA expects to expend a lot of work to separate those projects from the McCamey D project. LCRA must rewrite its applications, environmental analyses, supporting testimony, and public notices. Staff must have additional time to review the notices and make comments on them as necessary.
The motion would delay two of the nine CREZ Priority Projects and delay the McCamey D-Kendall-Gillespie filing until July 6, 2010. LCRA and Staff believe that the delay in the estimated in-service date is reasonable given the scope of the projects that would traverse the Hill Country and the need to properly and fairly balance the competing needs of all affected parties.
The political pressure about the LCRA Hill Country CREZ lines is continuing to build. This request should give hope to those who are proposing the consideration of the I-10 Route and the Mason-Menard Route. It also allows for more time for opposition to build to the McCamey D line and will add another large group of potential intervenors if the additional routes are included in the application.