The Public Utility Commission of Texas has chosen to disregard some provisions of Texas district Judge Stephen Yelonosky’s January 15th decision ordering PUC to suspend development of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission line projects pending cost analysis of all CREZ projects. Judge Yelonosky’s ruling, made in response to a suit filed by the City of Garland, forces PUC to reconsider its award of routes to an array of foreign, out of state and untried players in the utility business.
‘North American Windpower,’ a trade publication of the wind energy business, reported on Jan. 19th that Terry Hadley, spokesman for PUC, claims these are only minor issues the PUC must revisit, and insists Judge Yelonosky’s ruling does not overturn existing law. According to this article "sources close to PUC" believe the agency has 90 days to respond to the ruling.
PUC was given authority by our state legislature to parcel out rights to build the "CREZ" lines to bring electricity generated by wind power in West Texas to the big cities along IH-35. They were mandated to consider public interests and existing public utilities when making these choices. The projects could add $4.00 per month to every electric bill in Texas. The City of Garland sued PUC because its electrical utility was not awarded a CREZ contract despite having lower costs. Judge Yelonosky writes that PUC instead "based its decisions on underlying findings that lack substantive evidence."
Transmission companies awarded CREZ routes last year apparently intend to ignore Yelonosky’s ruling. Catherine Cuellar, spokesperson for Oncor, builder of the Jacksboro 345kv line, is quoted as saying, "We are continuing to build CREZ lines under our certificate of convenience and necessity." The ‘certificate of convenience and necessity’ is an artifact of the CREZ program intended to overcome legal obstacles to power line construction.
Business as Usual at LCRA
State Representative Harvey Hilderbrad’s recent complaints to Lower Colorado River Authority concerning LCRA’s objections to the Hwy277/IH-10 route for the Twin Buttes/McCamey line have been given similarly short shrift. Thomas Mason, General Manager of LCRA, replied to Rep. Hilderbran in a Jan. 19th letter, basically shifting the responsibility for any choice of transmission line routes to the PUC. Sidestepping Hilderbran’s points, he wrote,"I want to emphasize that the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) has the ultimate decision making authority in this matter."
Questions about LCRA’s stockpile of lattice tower parts in Kimble County knocking out the use of monopoles were given a similar answer by Mr. Mason: "If the PUC directs us to build something other than lattice structures, we will use the structures on other projects or sell the steel."
LCRA has announced an "open house" in Mason on Feb. 17th to show their proposed CREZ route through our county.