Transmission turf war in Oklahoma—really?



A Tranmission war in the Oklahoma Panhandle. That’s how one blogger of energy issues, transmission policies and regulations described Oklahoma’s recent transmission line issues in the state’s Panhandle.

West Virginia consumer advocate Keryn Newman took up blogging in a fight against AEP & Allegheny Energy’s PATH joint transmission line which was proposed across the street from her house. She and another advocate took the matter before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and won.

“StopPATH Blog continues to bring you energy policy news and opinion from a consumer’s point of view.  If it’s sometimes snarky and oftentimes irreverent, just remember that the truth isn’t pretty.  People come here because they want the truth, instead of the usual dreadful lies this industry continues to tell itself.  If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing,” is how she described her newsletter.

Now Newman is writing weekly about other energy issues and recently delivered a poke at the transmission line efforts of AEP and Public Service Company of Oklahoma.


Here’s what she had to say about what she called the “turf war” in the Panhandle.

“New government giveaways have created a land rush in the Oklahoma panhandle to build a forest of wind turbines.  Greedy energy speculators have arrived to exploit Oklahoma and plunder its riches for their own gain.

The Oklahoma panhandle has long been a wind energy speculator’s holy grail due to its wind speeds, however it has also been impossible to develop due to its remote location far from gigantic transmission lines for export to other states.  First there was Clean Line Energy Partners, who thought if they built a 700-mile transmission line from the panhandle to Memphis that other companies would build wind turbines in the panhandle and energy consumers in Memphis would eagerly buy whatever electricity was delivered.  Oops!  That didn’t work out so swell.  There never were any customers for that idea and Clean Line went belly up after wasting $200M of its investors’ money.  However, on its way to dissolution, Clean Line sold the remnants of its project idea to NextEra Energy Resources.  NextEra bought only the Oklahoma portion of the project.  The purchase included rights-of-way that has been acquired by Clean Line.  NextEra has been sitting on this purchase like a chicken on an egg since 2017, waiting for the political tides to change.

And then there was WindCatcher, which wound up about the time Clean Line wound down.  In fact, Clean Line tried to get WindCatcher interested in buying its Oklahoma assets, instead of taking a different route.  WindCatcher was a scheme by American Electric Power subsidiary Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and renewable energy company Invenergy to build the country’s largest wind farm in the panhandle and then connect it to eastern Oklahoma via a new transmission line built by PSO.  PSO’s first route went just north of Tulsa and was refused by the Osage.  PSO’s alternate route went just south of Tulsa to connect near Jenks, but a little town named Bixby formed a tornado of opposition and gave WindCatcher a run for its money.  The project was eventually cancelled when Texas failed to approve its costs being charged to ratepayers.  However, Invenergy sort of jumped the gun on the wind farm part of the project and began minimal construction in order to preserve its federal tax credits for the project.  After WindCatcher was cancelled, Invenergy found itself with a stranded, partly constructed wind farm that it couldn’t connect.  Like all creepy critters, Invenergy crawled back under the baseboard and waited patiently until opportunity was ripe to give it another go.

Invenergy and NextEra were finally rewarded for their patience by the current administration’s tax money giveaway to anything with “clean” or “transmission” in its name.  The time to strike is now.

Word has it that NextEra is approaching landowners to get permission to survey for a 500-mile extra high voltage transmission line from Texas/Cimarron Counties to Muskogee/Sequoia Counties, and other areas in the southeast.  (Check a map… it’s only 400 miles from the panhandle to Muskogee, at best.  Where is this line really going?).  The route of NextEra’s new transmission project sounds almost exactly the same as Clean Line’s route through Oklahoma.  NextEra has kept its cards extremely close to the vest, avoiding any media or online presence.  Maybe it’s hoping nobody finds out about it yet?  NextEra is certainly not being transparent about its plan and that doesn’t bode well for affected landowners and communities.

Invenergy has recently put out its own feelers in a much more public way to build what it’s calling the Cimarron Link transmission line.  This transmission project proposes a route from Texas/Cimarron Counties to a substation near Jenks, which almost exactly matches AEP/PSO’s WindCatcher route.  Invenergy claims it is reaching out to landowners to negotiate easements.

As if the people of Oklahoma along these very same routes haven’t already played this game with either Clean Line or PSO.  There’s a thing called “transmission fatigue” which describes a group of landowners who have already battled one transmission line on their properties and are experienced enough to do it again.  No real utility would stupidly try to use the same failed route for another project.  It’s like trying to roll a ball uphill.

Do we really NEED two nearly identical transmission lines from the Oklahoma panhandle to the eastern part of the state?  These projects will run more or less parallel within 50 miles of each other.  How many turbines could they realistically build in the panhandle?  Are both sets of these transmission lines and wind farms needed, or will landowners pop some corn and sit back watching these two energy conglomerates from other states duel to the death in order to claim the panhandle?  I wouldn’t even think of signing up with either one of them until they finish their duel.”