LITTLE ROCK - Opponents of a planned transmission line across Arkansas and parts of Oklahoma and Tennessee said Friday they have filed a federal lawsuit objecting to the U.S. Department of Energy’s participation in the project.
Golden Bridge and Downwind, two organizations representing landowners who oppose the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project, said they filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. The suit was not available on the court’s website Monday evening, and the groups did not immediately provide a copy to the Arkansas News Bureau.
According to a news release, the suit challenges the legality of the Department of Energy’s decision to participate in the project under Section 1222 of the Energy Policy Act, which allows the agency to partner with private companies on some energy infrastructure projects.
“While understanding the importance of infrastructure in the production, transmission and distribution of electrical energy, the landowner-managed organization is concerned with the federal government’s legal authority, and the scope and manner of its proposed participation in transmission projects pursuant to Section 1222,” Downwind said in the release.
“There are lingering doubts about the substance and merits of the department’s determination in this project, with particular concern relating to the potential use of federal eminent domain to condemn private property for the benefit of a private, for-profit company,” the organization said.
The suit also alleges that landowners should have had more ability to participate in the department’s review of the application for the project by Clean Line Energy Partners of Houston, according to Dave Ulery of Golden Bridge.
“Landowners were never offered an appropriate avenue for due process during the DOE’s review of Clean Line’s application,” he said. “An opportunity to comment is not the same as an opportunity to directly participate in the matter in an official capacity. Review is meaningless if those most affected are not given ample and significant opportunity to engage on a meaningful and substantive level.”
Clean Line Energy Partners Executive Vice President Mario Hurtado said Monday he had not seen the suit and could not comment on it specifically.
Hurtado said in a statement, “It’s no secret that the United States suffers from an infrastructure deficit and that we must push through gridlock to move the country forward. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see legal complaints filed against the most important infrastructure projects. In order to modernize the grid, enable the delivery of low-cost energy, create new jobs and enhance our energy security, the private and public sectors must come together to bring new infrastructure projects to fruition.”
The $2 billion transmission line is expected to transmit 4,000 megawatts of wind energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to distribution centers in Arkansas and Tennessee, with Arkansas receiving 500 megawatts of that energy. Arkansas’ congressional delegation opposes the project, and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, has filed a bill to kill it.
Womack’s bill cleared the House Natural Resources Committee in June.