Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Small Okla. Town Fights OG&E Wind Power Transmission Route

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Small Okla. Town Fights OG&E Wind Power Transmission Route

Article excerpt

There is no proof that the power line hovering just 40 feet away from Julie Riggs' bedroom window had anything to do with the congenital birth defect of the child conceived in that room. But her husband is convinced the two things are related. So the couple scrimped and saved to build a house away from the city.

Their new home is still under construction in Piedmont, a small community of about 4,000 residents just west of Oklahoma City. But just a few weeks ago, Riggs found out OG&E plans to build a 345- kilovolt transmission line practically in her backyard.

"We can't take our business elsewhere," Riggs told OG&E officials and about 400 people who showed up to a town hall meeting to discuss the route chosen for the transmission line. "We're at your mercy. We hope you take our needs into consideration and not just money."

Piedmont Mayor Mike Fina arranged for a town hall meeting, held in the gymnasium of the First Baptist Church, after an outsized crowd showed up at the City Council meeting July 28. OG&E officials agreed to come out and answer questions, but gave no intimation that the chosen route for the transmission line - which will cut right through town - will be moved.

The townspeople objected, not only to the proposed route for the transmission line, but to the fact that most of them - even those whose homes come within a few hundred feet of the route the line will travel - never received notification from the company of the proposed project.

"Legally, we don't have to do any of this," said Paul Renfro, director of public affairs for OG&E. "We're under no legal obligation to notify anybody of anything. We made a good-faith effort.

"This transmission line is a physical thing, it's got to go somewhere," said Renfro. "It's not fair or right to say, 'I don't like it, put it on his or her property.' That's not going to fly. ... We're not going to move this line just because. We were able to accommodate some minor changes."

Riggs said a version of the map she obtained a few weeks ago placed the transmission line about 500 feet to the south of her property, but the latest version of the map has the line much closer, about 150 feet away.

OG&E is being pushed into building a bigger and better transmission line to accommodate the new power created by the growing wind farms in western Oklahoma, said Renfro. OG&E's effort is part of a regional and a nationwide movement to create transmission to accommodate wind power, which is in high demand these days.

"We didn't decide to do this just because we didn't have anything else to do," said Renfro. "These power lines are going to be built even if OG&E steps out of the picture."

OG&E is partnering with some of the biggest electricity companies in the country, including Public Service Company of Oklahoma's parent company American Electric Power, to build the 120-mile long leg of the transmission line, stretching from Oklahoma City to Woodward. …

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