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Garland city attorney and PUC spar over release

Tempers flared as an obviously miffed Texas Public Utility Commission assailed a Garland city attorney Friday over a news release in which he called a court ruling reversing a commission order "a big win for Texas ratepayers." The meeting in Austin featured uncharacteristically heated and personal exchanges, coming on the heels of a Jan. 15 ruling by state District Judge Stephen Yelenosky of Austin.

Tempers flared as an obviously miffed Texas Public Utility Commission assailed a Garland city attorney Friday over a news release in which he called a court ruling reversing a commission order "a big win for Texas ratepayers."

The meeting in Austin featured uncharacteristically heated and personal exchanges, coming on the heels of a Jan. 15 ruling by state District Judge Stephen Yelenosky of Austin. That ruling could halt or delay a $5 billion project to build transmission lines from West Texas wind farms to Dallas-Fort Worth and other populous urban areas with surging electricity demand.

In the news release, Garland City Attorney Brad Neighbor said, "The PUC should not put the interests of big transmission line developers before the interests of Texas ratepayers."

Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman told Neighbor that he found the release "offensive," Commissioner Kenneth Anderson called it an effort to "try to embarrass" the PUC and "inflame the public" and Commissioner Donna Nelson said it was fraught with "mischaracterizations, innuendos and untruths."

"Your proper forum to express your grievances is the courthouse. ... It's not the press," Smitherman said.

Neighbor responded with strong... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Tempers flared as an obviously miffed Texas Public Utility Commission assailed a Garland city attorney Friday over a news release in which he called a court ruling reversing a commission order "a big win for Texas ratepayers."

The meeting in Austin featured uncharacteristically heated and personal exchanges, coming on the heels of a Jan. 15 ruling by state District Judge Stephen Yelenosky of Austin. That ruling could halt or delay a $5 billion project to build transmission lines from West Texas wind farms to Dallas-Fort Worth and other populous urban areas with surging electricity demand.

In the news release, Garland City Attorney Brad Neighbor said, "The PUC should not put the interests of big transmission line developers before the interests of Texas ratepayers."

Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman told Neighbor that he found the release "offensive," Commissioner Kenneth Anderson called it an effort to "try to embarrass" the PUC and "inflame the public" and Commissioner Donna Nelson said it was fraught with "mischaracterizations, innuendos and untruths."

"Your proper forum to express your grievances is the courthouse.  . . .  It's not the press," Smitherman said.

Neighbor responded with strong words of his own.

"This is your place. You're in control. So you can continue to berate me if you so choose," he told the three-member body, which the governor appoints.

Neighbor said he was being "castigated for trying to represent the interests" of Garland and its residents. Garland, on the northeast edge of Dallas, is the fifth-largest city in the Metroplex, with 228,350 residents.

Anderson told Neighbor that the release implied that the commission "didn't care about the ratepayers."

Ratepayers are electricity consumers, whose electric bills are increasing roughly $4 per month to pay for the high-voltage transmission lines, expected to be completed by the end of 2013 under the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones project.

Garland has a municipally owned electric utility that unsuccessfully sought contracts from the commission for some CREZ projects in the Panhandle. It appealed the commission's decision to Yelenosky's court. The judge issued a ruling that remanded to the commission its 2009 order awarding dozens of CREZ projects to utility companies.

The commission, in its order, cited "inherent difficulties" that it said would arise if the projects were awarded to municipal utilities, including that the commission "does not have jurisdiction over municipally owned utilities regarding their routing of transmission lines," nor "the timing of the construction." Yelenosky said some factors that the commission took into account in its order "are legally irrelevant" and that some of its findings "are not supported by substantial evidence."

The commission has not yet fully addressed Yelenosky's ruling, which takes effect in mid-February. But the commission unanimously decided Friday that it will soon enter a separate order designed to prevent 10 "high-priority" CREZ projects from being delayed by the ruling.

Among those are seven projects awarded to Dallas-based Oncor Electric Delivery, the major transmission and distribution company in North Texas. Garland did not seek to win any of the 10 high-priority projects, according to statements at Friday's meeting.


Source: http://www.star-telegram.co...

JAN 29 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/24531-garland-city-attorney-and-puc-spar-over-release
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