"We’ve asked them to remove Mason County from their proposal as a way to solve this issue, but if they insist Mason County remain in their proposed plan, then we will insist that they follow the law and perform the proper environmental study," stated Jerry Bearden, Mason County Judge and chairman of the MSRPC.
"We are prepared to take this as far as needed should LCRA think they don’t have to perform the proper studies," commented Brent Hinckley, Mayor of the City of Mason and vice-chairman of the MSRPC. A proper study can be very expensive and takes anywhere from 18 months to three years to perform if done right.
In their first coordination meeting on November 24, 2009, the MSRPC notified both LCRA and the Public Utility Commission of the significant impacts an electric transmission line would have on Mason County. Issues included significant economic, cultural, historical, and environmental impacts that would destroy the scenic and economic values of the area.
"The federal law is very specific. If a project, like the electric transmission line proposed by LCRA through Mason County, has ‘significant impacts,’ and becomes ‘highly controversial,’ then a full environmental impact study must be performed," said Mike Dail, a local businessman and the only non publicly-elected member of the MSRPC board.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature restructured the state’s electric industry and allowed the LCRA to offer transmission services to other utilities statewide. Part of the legislative package included renewable sources of energy like wind generation. However, to connect the source of the wind-generated power in West Texas and the Panhandle with customers along the I-35 Corridor, transmission lines would need to be built directly through the Texas Hill Country, including Mason County. And, until the Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission formed, there was no way of getting the LCRA or the PUC to work with local communities in a meaningful way.
"We now have their attention and believe we can resolve this with minimal time and effort as long as the LCRA follows the law," added Bearden. The Commission also passed a resolution that supported ownership of private property as the only way in Mason County to protect the natural resources and aesthetic beauty of the County, not through more government programs.
The resolution is as follows:
"WHEREAS Mason County contains ecologically significant areas such as the Llano Uplift; and
WHEREAS Mason County is considered to be one of the last unspoiled counties in the State of Texas;
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT ORDAINED BY THE MASON SUB-REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION, THAT:
1. Any environmental impacts from construction of CREZ Transmission Lines in Mason County cannot be mitigated for any purpose.
2. Protection of these natural attributes should be accomplished through ownership of private property and not through any government-sponsored or mandated programs such as habitat conservation plans, conservation easement, mitigation, or any similar government program.
PASSED AND APPROVED this 16
Judge Jerry Bearden, Chairman
– The Mason Sub-Regional Planning Commission (MSRPC) made it clear last Wednesday in a letter to the Lower Colorado River Authority – either withdraw the electric transmission line from Mason County or perform a complete environmental impact study.th day of December, 2009.