SWEPCO wants a do-over on testimony, needs study

Friday, October 4, 2013

Southwestern Electric Power Co. -- perhaps concerned that their application to build a 50-mile-long mega-power line across Western Carroll and Benton counties -- is asking the Arkansas Public Service Commission for the chance to re-submit documents vital to its application, long after the deadline for such documents.

SWEPCO, which has proposed building miles of 150-foot towers to carry a 345,000 Volt electricity transmission line from the Shipe Road station in Benton County to a new Kings River substation near Berryville, wants permission from the APSC to amend its previously filed pleadings in the case.

SWEPCO's "Motion to conform the pleadings to the proof," filed last week, states that "vital supplemental information" was presented during cross-examination of three of its witnesses during the August hearings in Little Rock, and that that information should be added to its previously filed testimony that is being considered by the judge in its application.

"Where there was no objection to any of this testimony at the hearing, there can be no objection to the Commission considering the evidence in its deliberations," SWEPCO's new motion states. "Likewise, there can be no legitimate objection to this motion as all of the oral testimony by witnesses Hassink and Nickell was elicited on cross-examination by Save the Ozarks and other intervenors."

The motion is a follow-up to a similar oral argument made during the last hour of the last day of the hearing that took place Aug. 26-30 in Little Rock. Save the Ozarks, the citizens' group at the center of what is now region-wide public opposition to the project, objected to SWEPCO's oral motion at the hearing and is expected to challenge this new motion in a response to be filed later this week.

With this motion, SWEPCO is asking for a post hoc amendment of the application they submitted for APSC approval -- a "do-over" of the statement of the public need and reasons for their proposed project, said a press release from Save The Ozarks.

"In effect, this is SWEPCO's admission that STO's expert witness, Dr. Hyde Merrill, was correct in his assessment: The public need identified in SWEPCO's application does not exist and, even if such a need did exist, the proposed project would not be required to meet it," STO said. "SWEPCO is asking APSC to replace their now disproven statement of need with their witnesses' testimonies, which include a new needs study that allegedly establishes previously unidentified public needs that require the construction the transmission line."

This new study was submitted in sur-surrebuttal so that STO has had no access -- indeed has been blocked from obtaining -- the data and analysis that the new needs study by SWEPCO is based on, STO stated.

"In short, STO has had no opportunity to examine and refute SWEPCO's new needs study," the group said this week.

STO's brief on the issues of need, the environmental impact statement and economic impacts as well as its Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law were filed at noon this Tuesday, and, as noted earlier, STO's challenge to SWEPCO's motion will be filed later this week.

A decision in the case is expected to come by the end of the year.

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