Second anti-SWEPCO meeting gathers momentum

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A second meeting for concerned property owners and citizens was held Thursday night in the City Auditorium over the proposed 345 kV high-tension power line SWEPCO wants to run 48 miles through Carroll County. About 100 people came to hear information by a panel of speakers, presented by Save the Ozarks, a group protesting the power line.

The panel was moderated by Ilene Powell, who moved to this area three years ago after losing her home in New Orleans to a "manmade disaster."

"Do not get SWEPCOed under this manmade disaster!" she urged attendees.

Pat Costner, a former Greenpeace scientist who is involved with the opposition, said SWEPCO's favored route goes right through her land, and so do several of the alternate routes.

She said two petitions would be filed Monday: one to extend the deadline for the Arkansas Public Service Commission to take comments on the project and the other for the opposition group to intervene in the project, headed by the Community Environmental Defense Services organization.

"They have a 90 percent win rate on issues like this," she said.

As of Tuesday, however, Costner said the petitions had not been filed, as STO had received so much feedback from those who want to be part of the intervention that the group will delay filing it in order for more people to file a "testimony" form and email it to STO.

The petition to file an extension will not be filed, she said, as it can only be filed by a group or individual who has intervener status.

Dr. Luis Contreras spoke about negative health effects of high-tension lines, including interference with pacemakers and defibrillators, childhood leukemia, Alzheimers and anxiety disorders. He said the information was not his opinion but was backed by scientific research.

"This is scary stuff," he said.

Local real estate agent Glenn Crenshaw spoke of the impact on property values of having visual high-tension lines in the area.

"It's one of the first questions we're asked," he said, speaking of potential buyers. "Even if your property is adjoining this stuff, it's going to affect your property values."

Roger Shepperd, who had spoken at the first concerned citizens meeting on April 11, said SWEPCO's Environmental Impact Statement is "not a fair document" because it glosses over and leaves out "human concerns" in its statement of potential impacts.

Costner, who has been involved in a number of cases like this over the years and is well familiar with environmental issues, also discussed the EIS.

"Their little EIS is like comparing a comic book to an Encyclopedia Brittanica set," she said. "I'm an Arkansas native, and these things are not traditionally challenged. It's time to challenge. It's time to say, 'Enough!'"

Mark Armstrong referred to SWEPCO's vegetation management plan affecting the 800 acres the project will span.

"Think about the gallons of herbicide," he said. "I know a couple of people looking to purchasing properties this week, and then they heard about the high-tension line and said never mind -- there are other places."

Panelists also addressed the necessity of the line. Contreras said he had spoken with Carroll Electric, who will be able to use the lines as a power distributor.

He said corporate spokeswoman Nancy Plagge told him they need the lines to "improve service reliability."

"But not additional capacity," he said. "They are lying. The way you provide service reliability is to have people able to repair lines in an ice storm."

Costner said the Southwest Power Pool's justification for adding the lines was based on a 2007 population study, which showed significant growth in Northwest Arkansas.

"As we all know, many things have changed since 2007," she said, referring to the economic crash of 2008 and the slowdown in growth.

A number of comments were made by attendees regarding SWEPCO's secretive process, environmental damage and human health concerns.

"I want to know why (officials) knew about this in November, and we didn't," said Susan Morrison. "Secondly, why did that piece of property in Berryville (the site of a proposed power station near the Kings River) sell for so much? A whole bunch of money was spent on this little piece of property. Where did that money go?"

Kay Glover said she was wheelchair-bound for 20 years from herbicide toxicity and is only now walking. She is concerned about herbicides getting into the groundwater.

"I'm a geologist," said Jim Helwig. "We live on karst terrain. If you have a sinkhole or a cave, we need to know about it."

Doug Stowe questioned the real scope of the project.

"If you look on their website, the line is designed as 345 kV, with the capacity to double that amount. It's also to transmit power into Southwest Missouri."

Eric Scheunemann said landowners can challenge eminent domain, get a trial by jury, and a jury can use the 18th century practice of jury nullification, which has never been repealed, to vote unanimously to throw out laws it feels are wrong.

Jeff Danos cautioned landowners not to sign any survey forms SWEPCO might bring to come onto their land as it could mean they are agreeing for SWEPCO to disturb the land.

"Do not sign anything without talking to an attorney about it," he said.

Representatives of the Great Passion Play and the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission said they support opposition this project.

Steve Campbell said the herbicides to be used are a "chemical cocktail" that is "carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors."

He also urged people to look at the exact property maps, available at the county courthouse, that SWEPCO had to use to map their possible routes rather than the "really vague" one SWEPCO put on its website.

Costner said Save the Ozarks FOIA'd a list of landowners who had been notified about the project. The APSC lied about having such a list, she said, but she later received a list both of landowners contacted who would be directly affected and those who would be impacted.

Tuesday she urged people to file testimony with STO to be part of the intervention process.

"You should file an affidavit if you are directly affected and if also if your property is near the line," she said.

She said the STO website has forms people can download, fill out and email back to STO.

"Do it quick," she urged. "If we have a decent number of people by Friday, we may encourage our lawyer to go ahead and file it."

She said those who become part of the intervention in no way incur any liabilities or obligations.

The forms and instructions can be found at www.savetheozarks.com.

Organizers say the group needs donations to help with legal costs. An account has been set up at Community First Bank for that purpose.

In addition to sending testimony to become an intervener, citizens can leave comments at the APSC website at www.apscservices.info. The docket number is 13-041-U.

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