Public officials from four Hill Country counties participated in the August 19, 2010 Public Utility Commission (PUC) Open Meeting in Austin. Those making comments in the combined Gillespie to Newton (G-N) and McCamey D to Kendall to Gillespie (M-K-G) CREZ transmission line agenda items were Kerr County Judge Wayne Tinley, Mason County Judge Jerry Bearden, Mason Mayor Brent Hinckley, Gillespie County Commissioner Donnie Schuch and Llano County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Linda Ballard. Others in attendance were Gillespie County Commissioners Calvin Ransleben and Billy Roeder, Gillespie County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Tim Lehmberg and Fredericksburg City Councilman Graham Pearson. Robert Weatherford, representing the Save Our Scenic Hill Country Environment organization, was also in attendance.
Comments from the public officials included the following key messages.
(1) The high voltage CREZ transmission lines would have a significant negative impact on the Hill Country which is a truly unique area known for its scenic beauty.
(2) The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) re-evaluation of the need for the G-N line that was commissioned by the PUC is greatly appreciated. It was requested that the significantly lower cost alternative that was identified by ERCOT be accepted and that the G-N line be eliminated.
(3) It was requested that the M-K-G line be re-evaluated as well.
(4) Consideration of the possibility of using the recently completed NextERA private line that runs from the Abilene area to the Kendall substation in place of the M-K-G line was proposed.
(5) The request was made that the PUC M-K-G line contested case proceeding be stopped while a re-evaluation is completed. .
Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, one of the Hill Country officials that were unable to attend, informed Chairman Smitherman that she also supports the ERCOT G-N line analysis.
A number of other public officials, counties, organizations and individuals have submitted prior requests related to re-evaluation of the CREZ lines in the Hill Country.
Following significant discussion that also involved ERCOT representatives, the PUC took the following actions.
(1) They agreed to set up a new docket to receive input from interested parties on the ERCOT G-N analysis before a decision is finalized.
(2) It was acknowledged that the Kendall to Gillespie (K-G) line is closely related to the G-N line. They chose to not address the need for the K-G line in conjunction with the G-N line re-evaluation as the K-G line is already in the M-K-G line docket.
(3) They asked that additional information be provided regarding the possibility of utilizing the NextERA private transmission line with modifications to eliminate the proposed McCamey D to Kendall (M-K) CREZ line.
(4) They decided not to stop the PUC M-K-G line contested case hearing at this time due to the lack of information.
Also on August 19, 2010, Senator Troy Fraser sent a related letter to PUC Chairman Smitherman that expressed his appreciation for the PUC-requested ERCOT analysis that identified the significantly lower cost alternative to the G-N line. Senator Fraser requested that the PUC instruct ERCOT to consider alternatives to building the M-K-G line and indicated one alternative may be use of the NextERA line. He stated that he continues to favor use of existing rights of way and state highway rights of way and that he was surprised that LCRA TSC submitted a proposal that used such rights of way for only one third of the project.
The next PUC Open Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 15, 2010.