Oklahoma Corporation Commission held a hearing for the proposed Wind Catcher Energy Connection project Monday and Tuesday, and a decision on pre-approval still awaits.
The hearing involved the proposed settlements and motions in the Wind Catcher case, and "concerns an application by Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) requesting preapproval of the costs of the Wind Catcher wind energy project," according to OCC.
"Arguments were heard regarding the proposed agreements in the case. New legal issues were raised in the two day hearing. Commissioners will decide whether another hearing is necessary on those legal issues," OCC Spokesman Matt Skinner said Thursday.
Public comment was again taken during the hearing, in addition to the public comment taken in January, as well as the written public comment that has been filed, Skinner said.
"One of the issues raised this time has been objections to the siting of the power line. Chairman (Dana) Murphy said while the commission does not have siting authority, it does have concerns about what it is hearing from landowners as to the way they are being treated by PSO. The other commissioners agreed with her statement, which was given at the conclusion of the hearing," Skinner said.
In Murphy's statement at the end of the hearing, she said the public interest is a key component of the case.
"It's been indicated numerous times that this corporation commission doesn't have siting authority, but beyond balancing the rights of the parties as I believe we were called to do, I think it's our duty and our responsibility to ensure that there's been fair and reasonable treatment of Oklahomans, which I believe includes good faith negotiations with landowners," Murphy said.
She said in addition to the comments made at the hearing, the commission has received numerous letters, emails and phone calls, not just in opposition, but also in how landowners have been treated by contractors for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma.
"The challenge for me is it seems to be a systemic problem, and I think it needs to be addressed by PSO beyond calling the individual landowners, whose numbers have been provided," Murphy said. "I would encourage the company in that regard to deal with this particular issue ... I believe the company has already indicated they're making those efforts."
PSO began taking action against landowners in opposition to the project back in May.
In May, letters were sent by a law firm representing PSO to about two dozen landowners who had refused access to their property for environmental surveys. According to those receiving the letters, PSO threatened to file an injunction if the landowners didn’t allow officials on their properties to do environmental surveys by May 4.
Several landowners have been in court the last several weeks over the issue.
Wind Catcher Energy Connection is a joint effort between Southwestern Electric Power Co. and PSO, and is a $4.5 billion project that involves building a wind farm in Oklahoma, a 350-mile power line and two substations. SWEPCO will own 70 percent of the project, and PSO the other 30 percent.
The wind farm, to be built on 300,000 acres in Cimarron and Texas counties in the Panhandle, will include about 800 2.5 MW wind turbines. A power line will stretch from there to Tulsa, bringing 2,000 megawatts of energy to customers in eastern and southwest Oklahoma, in addition to parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. PSO’s share of the project investment is $1.36 billion.
PSO has been awaiting a decision for months from Oklahoma Corporation Commission for preapproval of the company’s request to allow PSO to charge ratepayers to help fund the project and recover an anticipated expenditure of the $1.36 billion.
All filings involved in the case can be found at http://imaging.occeweb.com/imaging/OAP.aspx, according to OCC. To search for the case, the "Case #" is 201700267 and the "Case Type" is PUD.