- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) - Officials with Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners say construction could begin in 2017 on a planned 700-mile transmission line to carry wind-generated electricity across Oklahoma and Arkansas into Tennessee.

The planned Plains & Eastern Clean Line would carry the wind power from as-yet undeveloped wind farms in the Oklahoma Panhandle to Memphis, Tennessee, where it would connect to the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Mario Hurtado, Clean Line vice president for development, told The Journal Record that he expects the project, announced in 2010, to be operating by 2020.

“It takes a lot of time to put together an infrastructure project like this,” Hurtado said.

However, opposition has surfaced in Arkansas, where the state’s six-member congressional delegation has objected to the federal government possibly using eminent domain to take land for the project. The federal lawmakers say eminent domain should be decided at the state and local level.

“We continue to have serious concerns that this project erodes the rights of local communities and the state of Arkansas to have a seat at the table in the decision-making process,” according to a statement from Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton and Reps. Steve Womack, French Hill, Rick Crawford and Bruce Westerman following a Dec. 10 meeting with U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

All of the six lawmakers are Republicans.

Clean Line officials say about $7 billion will be invested in the project, boosting economies in both Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“Several hundred permanent, quality wind tech and support jobs will be created to operate and maintain the line and wind farms,” said Vicki Ayres-Portman, Clean Line outreach manager based in Guymon.

“Millions of dollars annually will go to counties, schools and landowners,” Ayres-Portman said. “It is a great way for our farmers and ranchers to diversify their income as well.”

In November, researchers from the center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas published a study that estimated the construction of operation of the transmission project will add more than $660 million to the economy in Arkansas.

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