(KFSM) -- A 700-mile long high-voltage wind transmission line that would stretch from the Oklahoma panhandle through Arkansas and into western Tennessee is one step closer to becoming a reality after the U.S. Energy Department released its final environmental impact statement in which the DOE expressed an interest in partnering with Clean Line Energy Partners, LLC on the project.
According to the Environmental Impact Statement Summary released Wednesday (Nov. 4), the DOE can issue a record of decision no sooner than 30 days after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Notice of Availability of the final environmental impact statement is published in the Federal Register.
In a release from Clean Line Energy, the company states it expects the DOE to issue a record of decision by the end of 2015. The record of decision will include the DOE's decision on whether and how the federal agency and its Southwest Power Administration would participate in the project, as well as preferred locations for project facilities in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The transmission line would cut a path through 13 counties in Arkansas, including Crawford, Franklin and Johnson counties, and 15 counties in Oklahoma, including Sequoyah County.
"This line will allow about 4,000 megawatts [of electricity] to be produced by wind energy turbines in western Oklahoma and North Texas and then to be consumed in Arkansas, Tennessee and the mid-south and southeast," Mario Hurtado, Executive Vice President of Clean Line Energy, said.
In its release, Clean Line Energy states the DOE approved the inclusion of a delivery converter station in Pope County that would deliver 500 megawatts of low-cost, clean power to more than 160,000 Arkansas homes each year.
However, Arkansas lawmakers in Washington, D.C. said they're concerned the DOE released its final environmental impact statement before addressing the concerns they expressed in a letter sent to the DOE secretary in September.
The delegation sent another letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz the same day the impact statement was released. The letter was signed by Congressmen Steve Womack, Bruce Westerman, Rick Crawford and French Hill, as well as Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman.
"I would like to meet with the secretary to see if we can directly get a response to the concerns we have," Boozman said. "And the real concern is making sure the people of Arkansas are represented in the decision."
Boozman said he's concerned about how many decisions on the project are being made on the federal level, with little input on the state level.
The DOE will also approve the final route for the transmission line.
"The most important thing that has been looked at is to avoid existing homes with the transmission lines," Hurtado said. "So a lot work has been done on that, so you tend not to go where there's a high population density."
Hurtado said the company also took tribal land and protected species into consideration before mapping a route.
Over the last two years, several public forums have been held to discuss the project. Concerns range from potential health hazards to a change in scenery that would include 100 to 250 foot wide paths for the power lines.
"In exchange for [the land] we would pay 100% of the market value of the square footage of that acreage that would be needed," Hurtado said.
The biggest concern among property owners though is eminent domain, which would require property owners to turn over their land, but Clean Line Energy states it would only use the power of eminent domain if it was absolutely necessary.
The Arkansas delegation has also proposed an amendment that would guarantee more input from states and local communities on projects like the Clean Line transmission line.