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Arkansas Congressional Delegation Asks Energy Secretary to Address Oversight Concerns

September 15, 2015

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—are asking Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to address their detailed concerns about the federal government's possible unprecedented partnership with a third party to construct an electrical transmission project through Arkansas.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is considering the use of Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58) to partner in an energy transmission project in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Throughout the history of electric transmission siting, transmission projects have been reviewed and approved at the state level.

In the letter, the members outline their opposition to the use of Section 1222 in this context, seek answers to a number of related concerns and call on DOE to legally justify its potential actions.

"Again, we believe the Project does not meet the statutory requirements of Section 1222, and state-level reviews of many serious concerns are necessary. Therefore, in our federal lawmaking and oversight role, we oppose the use of Section 1222 in this context and we urge you to disapprove it. We recognize that in many contexts the development of new electric transmission infrastructure is necessary despite costs and adverse impacts. We are not taking a position on whether this Project or any other should move forward under non-federal authorities. Such decisions regarding electric transmissions are appropriately left to elected officials at the state and local level, where they have resided for generations. State and local officials can most effectively weigh the questions and concerns raised in this letter—and more importantly, concerns raised by our constituents—and determine whether such projects should be permitted," the delegation states in its letter.

Before asking a series of pointed oversight questions related to Section 1222, the letter urges the Department to protect each state's authority to review transmission projects.  Specifically, the letter states that this authority is important because it allows states to consider and reduce the impact of a number of potential factors, including: (1) harmful environmental impacts; (2) disproportionate impacts on rural, poor, and disadvantaged communities; (3) reduced property values on lands adjacent to the project; (4) infringements upon private property rights; (5) negative impacts to energy exploration, development, and production, including harmful impacts to existing energy infrastructure; (6) increased land fragmentation; (7) degraded public safety; (8) tribal opposition and concerns; (9) impacts to migratory birds and threatened or endangered species; (10) the exclusion of many Arkansas and Oklahoma power customers from use of the proposed transmission line; (11) the exclusion of Regional Transmission Organizations (i.e. the Southwest Power Pool and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator) from appropriate control of the transmission line; (12) decreased productivity on farms, ranches and forests; and (13) adverse socio-economic impacts associated with each of the issues addressed in this letter.

Read the letter in its entirety here.