In June 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for New or Upgraded Transmission Line Projects Under Section 1222(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) to facilitate private sector participation in the development of new or upgraded transmission facilities to modernize the nation’s transmission infrastructure. The RFP further sought to facilitate the reliable delivery of power generated by renewable resources. Clean Line believes that the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project meets these goals and is in the public interest. Accordingly, Clean Line submitted a response in July 2010 that proposed the participation of Southwestern Power Administration (Southwestern) in the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project. Southwestern is a power marketing agency under DOE with operations and transmission facilities in six states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma. Southwestern markets and delivers electricity to electric cooperatives and municipalities. In 2011, Clean Line provided updates to the proposal. In April 2012, DOE concluded that Clean Line’s proposal was responsive to the RFP and that DOE, in consultation with Southwestern, should 1) evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the project pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and 2) complete a review of the technical, financial and other aspects of the project, including whether the proposed project meets the statutory criteria listed in Section 1222(b) of the EPAct 2005, as well as all factors included in DOE’s 2010 RFP.
In December 2014, DOE requested updates and additions to Clean Line’s Section 1222 application. Clean Line submitted an updated application in January 2015, which is referred to as the Part 2 Application. DOE released the updated Part 2 Application for public review in late April 2015. The public comment period on the Part 2 Application ended July 13, 2015.
In March 2016, DOE issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for the project approving the Plains & Eastern Clean Line transmission project. After nearly six years of study and evaluation, DOE noted that the project merited the Department’s participation and designated a preferred route for the transmission line in Oklahoma and Arkansas. In its summary of findings, the Department of Energy found that “the project as proposed will serve the public interest by facilitating renewable energy development, stimulating economic development, generating revenues for needed public investment, and doing so while minimizing impacts to landowners and the natural environment.”
Concurrent with the issuance of the ROD, DOE issued the Participation Agreement between Clean Line and DOE, which outlines the roles of Clean Line and DOE in the project as well as protections for landowners and the local communities. Clean Line would be responsible for funding all of the construction and operating costs of the project. No government funding is being sought for the project, and Southwestern and its customers would not bear any costs of the project. Southwestern does not operate in Tennessee and, consequently, would not participate in the project in Tennessee.
DOE served as the lead agency for the evaluation of cultural resources pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act. In December 2015, DOE executed a Programmatic Agreement to comply with procedures set forth in 36 CFR Part 800. The Programmatic Agreement establishes measures for the identification and treatment of cultural resources during construction and operation of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line.
DOE also consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding potential effects to federally-protected species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. In November 2015, the USFWS issued a final Biological Opinion on the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. A Biological Opinion is a document that states the opinion of the USFWS as to whether or not the federal action is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed species in the project area or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. The USFWS did not make a finding of jeopardy for any of the species evaluated for the project.