TOPEKA, Kan. — On Wednesday morning, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) approved a siting permit establishing the route for the Wolf Creek to Blackberry 345 kV transmission line in Southeast Kansas. Approximately 83 miles of the line will be in Kansas, crossing Coffey, Anderson, Allen, Bourbon and Crawford Counties. NextEra Energy Transmission Southwest (NEET Southwest) will construct and operate the line.
The order, approved in a 2-1 vote, states “The Commission finds that the method that NEET Southwest used to select its route and the route proposed by NEET Southwest are reasonable and that the siting permit requested by NEET Southwest complies with all statutory requirements and should be granted.”
In August, the Commission granted NEET Southwest a limited certificate of convenience and necessity as a transmission-only public utility, after determining that the transmission project will benefit customers by lowering overall energy costs, removing inefficiency, relieving transmission congestion, and improving the reliability of the transmission system.
In addition to approving the proposed route yesterday, the Commission granted NEET Southwest micro-siting authority. Micro-siting allows the transmission owner to make minor modifications to the route and the placement of infrastructure to accommodate landowner preferences or to avoid environmental concerns. However, material, major adjustments, and any adjustment for which landowners would not have received notice, must be approved by the Commission before implementation. In addition, NEET Southwest is required to file its permit and county and private landowner reclamation plans with the Commission when they are completed. Also, the company must demonstrate evidence that they notified all landowners along the route of the landowner’s ability to request an electromagnetic field (EMF) study after the line is completed.
Commission Chair Susan Duffy and Commissioner Andrew French voted in favor of approving the line siting permit. Commissioner Dwight Keen voted against approving the line siting permit and filed a dissent stating, among his concerns, objection to locating the line parallel to an existing Evergy line and to not remanding the matter to SPP for reconsideration of double circuiting the lines on shared poles and right of ways or for other options to reduce landowner impact for 22.5 miles or roughly one fourth of the route. Double circuiting was evaluated, but not pursued due to estimated increased costs, significant time delays and differences in construction methods between the two companies.
The Wolf Creek to Blackberry project originated from the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a Regional Transmission Organization mandated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ensure reliable supplies of power, adequate transmission infrastructure, and competitive wholesale prices on behalf of its members. Kansas is one of 17 states served by SPP. In 2019, the Wolf Creek to Blackberry line was identified by SPP as a necessary economic project to increase transmission capability and reliability and relieve transmission congestion from western Kansas, east to SPP load centers.
The Commission’s order also noted a need for SPP to provide an avenue for state input and involvement early in the design process on future projects and the Commission’s intent to open a general investigation into principles and priorities to be used in future line siting proceedings. SPP will be made aware of both the Commission’s concerns and the results of its general investigation in order to better facilitate future cooperation and expectations.
A recording of the business meeting featuring comments by all Commissioners is available on the KCC YouTube channel.