The Woodward News

Local News

March 7, 2013

Concerns discussed at meeting

(Continued)

Woodward, Okla. — PUBLIC INPUT ESSENTIAL

Summerson said the DOE was looking to gain a broader range of input.

"Public input is an extremely important part of this process," she said when addressing the crowd of about 60 people to explain the process of drafting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the transmission line project.

Summerson explained that the EIS is intended to explore the potential environmental impacts, both positive and negative, of the proposed energy project.  The EIS process also seeks to explore "reasonable alternatives" in order to avoid or mitigate potential negative impacts.

However, since the project will cross over 700 miles across 3 states, Summerson said it is difficult to judge all the potential impacts on the thousands of property owners and other stakeholders across the area without input from those stakeholders.

At Monday night's meeting, there were several area stakeholders who had plenty of input on the proposed project, as well as plenty of questions.

Dan Willits, of Fairview, asked how close the transmission line could be put to homes.

Summerson said that "the general restriction is no homes or structures can be in the easement," which is typically 150 to 200 feet wide.  

"So potentially a 200-foot tall transmission line could be placed within 75-feet of a home?" Willits said, noting that's if the transmission line were placed down the center of a 150-foot easement.

"That's the legal minimum, but there's also negotiating between the business and landowners for where the easement will be," Summerson said.

She also said that to her knowledge Clean Line is doing its best to work with landowners.

She said that went beyond the placement of the easement, but also in the manner that an easement is obtained.

"The goal of Clean Line and the Department of Energy is to the greatest extent possible to avoid eminent domain," Summerson said.

However, some audience members stated they believed that access to federal eminent domain rights is the main reason Clean Line is seeking DOE participation.

"It's not the environment, it's eminent domain that is what this is about," said Sue Selman, representative of the Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition, which was formed by area property owners as a response to local growth in the energy industry.

And with the immense size and scope of the project, Willits said, "eminent domain is the only way this gets built."

Summerson agreed that eminent domain would likely be used at some points along the 700-mile long corridor, but said "it's a last resort."

"I know the priority is to negotiate and that Clean Line has shown a willingness to move the line, within reasonable limits, to make the project more acceptable," she said.

Clean Line has also developed a deal with the Southern Great Plains Property Rights Coalition and has its own code of conduct that it follows when negotiating with landowners over easement rights.  Mario Hurtado, Clean Line's executive vice president of development, said there is a copy of the agreement available on Clean Line's project website, http://www.plainsandeasterncleanline.com.  (To find the agreement,  you must click on a link for "Resources," then "Filings," then "Oklahoma," then "click here to view the ALJ's order.")

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