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Line in rural landscape; Crowd voices frustration over proposed 500-kilovolt power line

Jim Hicks summed up the sentiment of everyone in a crowd of nearly 200 people who packed a meeting Thursday evening in Butte to hear about a proposed power line that might come close to their homes. "It would basically make half of my ranch worthless," Hicks said, with his comments drawing loud applause. "What benefits would this provide to southwestern Montana?"

Jim Hicks summed up the sentiment of everyone in a crowd of nearly 200 people who packed a meeting Thursday evening in Butte to hear about a proposed power line that might come close to their homes.

"It would basically make half of my ranch worthless," Hicks said, with his comments drawing loud applause. "What benefits would this provide to southwestern Montana?" Hicks' complaints were brought up again and again by several people in the crowd. They said a proposed 500-kilovolt power line on the drawing board by NorthWestern Energy would benefit the company while taking a bite out of wallets of landowners who would have it pass through their property.

Tom Henderson, who lives south of Butte in the preferred route for the line, put in succinctly.

"I do not want any darn big power lines running through my back door that block my view of the Highlands to supply out-of-staters," he said.

But state and federal officials told the crowd that under Montana law, NorthWestern has a right to build a line. The company is working under the major facility siting act, a law written to ensure that power lines, gas pipelines and other major utilities can get done.

However, that doesn't mean... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Jim Hicks summed up the sentiment of everyone in a crowd of nearly 200 people who packed a meeting Thursday evening in Butte to hear about a proposed power line that might come close to their homes.

"It would basically make half of my ranch worthless," Hicks said, with his comments drawing loud applause. "What benefits would this provide to southwestern Montana?" Hicks' complaints were brought up again and again by several people in the crowd. They said a proposed 500-kilovolt power line on the drawing board by NorthWestern Energy would benefit the company while taking a bite out of wallets of landowners who would have it pass through their property.

Tom Henderson, who lives south of Butte in the preferred route for the line, put in succinctly.

"I do not want any darn big power lines running through my back door that block my view of the Highlands to supply out-of-staters," he said.

But state and federal officials told the crowd that under Montana law, NorthWestern has a right to build a line. The company is working under the major facility siting act, a law written to ensure that power lines, gas pipelines and other major utilities can get done.

However, that doesn't mean NorthWestern can do whatever it wants, said Tom Ring, who runs the major facility permitting program for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The agency considers literally more than a dozen factors in reviewing an application and can and often will dramatically alter a project to lessen its effects on landowners.

And officials have the option of denying a project if it doesn't meet the criteria laid out in state law.

NorthWestern is proposing to build the line from near Townsend to just north of Twin Falls, Idaho. The line would provide capacity for the company to supply power generated in Montana to markets in other states.

As required by state law, the company has proposed three routes, including a preferred alternative that would come over Homestake Pass and just south of Butte, continue to the Mill Creek substation just west of Anaconda before turning south and running along Interstate 15.

Landowners at the meeting said NorthWestern needs to consider other routes that don't come close to homes. The best option would be to avoid private land, said Dale Carpenter, of Melrose.

"It's a public utility - build it on public ground," he said. "You use (private) property, devalue the property and yet we get to pay taxes on it." Not everyone at the meeting was opposed to the project.

Connie Daniels, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County planning director, said the line would have benefits as well.

"Montana needs these transmission lines to move our economy forward," she said.

And Mike McGinley, a Beaverhead County commissioner, said he hasn't heard a great deal of opposition from his constituents. He agreed that the line is needed for new energy projects to move forward.

"We are an exporting state, be it energy, agriculture, mining, timber," he said.

With a big emphasis on renewable energy projects and Montana's excellent wind power potential, the line is vital to ship electricity out of the state, said Claudia Rapkoch, NorthWestern spokeswoman.

"The Obama Administration is really big on modernizing the grid to carry wind power," she said. "Montana isn't going to develop unless we have a path to get it out of state." The draft environmental impact statement for the power line is expected to be out in October. State officials will again accept public comments at that time and will make a final record of decision in 2010.

Construction of the power line is projected to run through 2013.


Source: http://www.mtstandard.com/a...

APR 10 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19769-line-in-rural-landscape-crowd-voices-frustration-over-proposed-500-kilovolt-power-line
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