Skrmetta: Transmission line may move away from homesNov 9th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
In the recent months, Entergy Louisiana has been working with local government officials and residents to find a route for their proposed second transmission line to run through Plaquemines Parish. On October 20, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner for District 1 Eric Skrmetta met with residents for one of the commissioner’s pre-scheduled town hall meetings, which became another forum for residents on their Entergy proposed transmission line woes.
The meeting had been set for September, but was delayed due to a scheduling conflict. In the meantime, residents from Jesuit Bend, the rest of District 5 and the commissioner’s office had been part of an ongoing dialogue with Entergy, proposing alternatives to the companies original route for the transmission line.
The first right of way requested by Entergy for Phase III of their expansion in the Parish was brought to full light in July, and originally requested approximately fifty additional feet from the parish’s own line. That was even further onto private property, and that much closer to the homes, businesses and schools therein.
That plan met with outright uproar from the Council and Plaquemines’ residents because of the line itself and complaints about how Entergy had gone about informing residents of the plan, with some residents never even receiving written notification.
But the original plan, presented by Entergy at the July 14 council meeting had undergone some revision before the public meeting in Belle Chasse on October 20. There residents learned that the transmission line previously slated to run down the side of Highway 23 was being analyzed to possibly run much closer to the road, down along a levee, or directly on the median of the highway.
Skrmetta fielded questions and concerns.
The cost of the transmission line and its location were intertwined, and depending on where the line goes the difference could be in the tens of millions. The public service commissioner reminded residents that his duties extended to many outside of Plaquemines, and that functionality, cost, resident concerns, as well as the effect on all Entergy customers by the new line had to be weighed into the decision.
“In my position as Public Service Commissioner, I serve 12 Parishes, and I have to factor in what’s fair [for all of them],” Skrmetta said. “If you do not want the line, that liability will be an issue for the Parish.”
At the moment, Plaquemines Parish has a single transmission line. Skrmetta said that new standards, set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, required the second transmission line. This is partly due to continuity of service, but Skrmetta said it is also a symptom of what happens when federal regulations supplant state authority and the local officials who are there with the people, not some hundreds of miles away.
Skrmetta has advocated to the public that the best way to voice their complaints and fears is to go to congress and state reps, who can then put pressure on the regulatory agencies, who rely on the federal government for their funding and grants.
However, if the line were to go in, Skrmetta said that the locations along the side of the road were a distant last resort.
One of the alternatives was to work with the Corps of Engineers to place the line along one of the levees, and get the right of way from the Corps instead of land-owners. The Corps has declined this as an option, because any construction might degrade the integrity of the levee structure.
Talks have also begun with DOTD to put the transmission line down the median of Highway 23.
“Entergy has provided us some options, which are currently under review. At this point, there are no firm details or decisions by DOTD,” said DOTD Public Informations Officer Bambi Hall.
Entergy representatives and Skrmetta said that installation of the proposed line would not begin until the end of 2012, but as the debate and concept review continues, that date looks to be moving further and further out.