July 24, 2008

Transmission Line Project Worry for Kingfisher Residents

By Enid News & Eagle, Okla.

Jul. 24--KINGFISHER -- Local residents expressed concern during a community meeting Tuesday about the effects of a proposed OG&E Electric Services transmission line project that will cut across some of their properties.

OG&E plans to build a series of 115-foot-tall power poles to carry 345,000 volts of electricity from OG&E wind turbines near Woodward to a power substation in northwest Oklahoma City.

Many people at Tuesday's meeting shared their stories, questions and concerns with each other.

Arnold Smith, of Okarche, one of the organizers of the meeting, told the group utility rates will go up 25 to 75 percent in the next few years because the projects will be funded by OG&E customers; however, OG&E has said customers will finance the $211 million project by paying an extra $1.50 a month on their electric bills.

Smith said he thinks the project is all about profit for the power companies and not about helping the environment.

"It is not green power. It is green profit," Smith said.

He said the fight against the project likely will be difficult because alternative sources of power are so popular right now.

"It is very unpopular to go against green power," Smith said.

Gil Broyles, OG&E Energy Corp. manager for corporate communications, attended Tuesday's meeting, although he did not speak. On Wednesday, he addressed some of the concerns raised.

"One thing that I think that we learned is that we have an opportunity to provide more information to landowners," he said. "We have worked hard to provide information to landowners but the group (Tuesday) night had some concerns."

Broyles said he also learned there is a lack of understanding about OG&E.

"I think one of the things we found there is a lack of complete understanding of the way OG&E operates," he said. "Earnings for our shareholders are important, but we are closely regulated by the Corporation Commission. The business decision is driven by the customers, by having enough power and as cheap as possible. Our core intent is to provide that power to Oklahomans."

Broyles also said by leasing the lines to other companies, OG&E can help defer the cost of building the lines and keep prices down.

"It is possible some of this power will go out of state but will still be generating money for Oklahoma," he said. "We are building the transmission lines so that other companies that want to develop wind power they will be able to get power out to their customers."

Phillip Cox said he recently purchased 13 acres of land just north of Okarche and found out a line is going across the north side of the property. His biggest concern is the health hazard the transmission lines may present.

"I am concerned about the health of the transmission lines. I know they have to get the power to Oklahoma City, but there has to be a better way," Cox said.

OG&E officials have said there are no health concerns associated with the project, which is expected to be completed by 2010. No start date has been announced.

Cox's second concern is the land he purchased was purchased for its beauty. He said the transmission line will destroy the land's beauty and he won't even be paid for it.

"It annoys me that I bought the property for the beauty of it being uninterrupted and now there will be a line right across it. They are doing it in such a way that it will be 200 feet away from my property so I won't be paid for it. So according to OG&E I have no say," Cox said.

OG&E has the right under state law to buy a utility right-of-way easement for the line from landowners. Easements from 200 feet wide to 100 feet wide now are being acquired from property owners along the line route, a company spokesman has said.

Cox suggested, and many in the meeting agreed, al-ternative solutions to this problem should be explored by OG&E.

"I would like OG&E to explore more options, like putting the line underground or the direction, so it doesn't affect as many people," he said. "I like the idea we are investing in an energy source locally rather than sending it overseas, but they need to be more considerate of the people they are affecting with it."

Candyce Kline, of Wood-ward, who owns land the line would cross, said she believes the company's right to take easements by eminent domain can be challenged in court.

"I don't think you need to think there is nothing you can do," Kline said. "I think you can do something."

Kline said she thinks about 800 landowners will be affected by the project. She said she plans to fight.

Broyles said OG&E had expected some concerns about the route the transmission lines would take but was surprised about some of the concerns expressed.

"I was somewhat surprised to hear the concern about the development of the wind farm," he said.

Broyles said wind resources will help northwest Oklaho-ma's economy.

"We want to mine northwestern Oklahoma for the wind resources it has," he said.

Mike Barrackman is from Montana and has a farm near Kingfisher. He isn't sure yet whether the line will cross his property.

"I don't know how this will affect me. I'm not sure if it will even cross or come near my land," he said. "I have a quarter eight miles west and one mile north. I have a sprinkler on it. If they put a tower on it will mess up the rotation."

Barrackman said he doesn't think anyone can change what OG&E is planning to do, and he said he wouldn't want to live near the lines.

Brent Snider isn't a landowner like many of the people at the meeting, but he said he lives near enough to the lines to be worried about the safety of his family.

"I'm not a landowner affected by this, but they are coming within a quarter mile of my house," he said. "These power lines put off a lot of electromagnetic fields, which is essentially radiation. I am just speaking out for my family."

Snider has bought a device to show the level of radiation in electromagnetic fields in his home.

"I've tried to get OG&E to understand there are people building homes out there. The thing to do is call OG&E and talk to them. They listen and have been good to us," said Snider.

John Brown, Piedmont city councilman, discussed not only the power line from a city perspective but from a personal perspective.

"This is like 100 feet from my dad's house, 200 feet from my house. There are whole housing additions within a quarter mile," he said. "This line essentially divides Piedmont in half. As far as I know Piedmont is the only town it goes through. This line runs right through the area that is the fastest growing area. It renders land useless in our fastest growing area."


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