Environmental Opportunities and Challenges with Siting New Transmission Lines: Stephen Cain (Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation) Environmental Law Section (Ark. Bar Association) Presentation

Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.

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Stephen Cain undertook a presentation at the September 25th Arkansas Bar Association Environmental Law Section meeting titled:

Environmental Opportunities and Challenges with Siting New Transmission Lines (“Presentation”)

Mr. Cain is the Manager of Environmental Compliance for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (“AECC”).

Mr. Cain’s Presentation addressed a number of environmental and related regulatory issues associated with the construction and operation of electricity transmission lines. A particular focus was addressing Endangered Species Act issues associated with Arkansas transmission line projects.

By way of background, Mr. Cain provided an overview of AECC, noting:

  • Not-for-profit generation and transmission electric cooperative
  • Founded in 1949 to provide wholesale electricity to Arkansas’ distribution cooperatives
  • 17 Member cooperatives covering approximately 62% of the state with more than 500,000 members

AECC’s generation assets were also described, including:

  • Seven natural gas plants (three with fuel oil backup)
  • Three hydroelectric plants
  • Co-owns (but does not operate) six coal units
  • Multiple power purchase agreements with wind, solar, hydro, etc.
  • Market purchased power

The evolution of AECC’s energy supply from 2016 (Total Non-Fossil = 15.4%) to 2017 (Total Non-Fossil = 17.5%) was discussed.

The role of transmission was addressed by noting that the organization currently owns/operates about 350 miles of transmission lines (including new transmission projects initiated in 2013).

A variety of generation and transmission terms were described, which include:

Generation Terms

Transmission Terms





Regional Haze/BART



404 Permit


Cultural Resources

Title V



Endangered Species



The role of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) in the acquisition of USDA/RUS loans was addressed. As noted, an environmental review of a proposed project must be completed before RUS loans are approved. Depending on the project, a document may be required such as an:

  • Environmental Report
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Environmental Impact Statement

Additional issues associated with environmental surveys and reports include:

  • Clean Water Act 404/Wetland Delineation
  • Cultural Resources
  • Endangered Species Act (“ESA”)

Other sources of review/permits include:

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (determination of loss of prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance
  • Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (large construction projects/Notice of Intent and Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan submittal for coverage under general stormwater permit construction activities)

A particular focus of the Presentation included ESA issues addressing:

  • IPaC Report (information for planning and consultation)
    • List of endangered species believed to exist in area of project
    • Any critical habitats of endangered species that the project may impact

The various endangered bats in Arkansas were listed and described, including a Candidate Bat (i.e., Tri-colored Bat). The discussion included issues such as White-Nose Syndrome and roosting trees.

The Presentation noted that general language from IPaC report for projects in Arkansas states:

If your species list includes any mussels, Northern Long-eared Bat, Indiana Bat, Yellowcheek Darter, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, or American Burying Beetle, your project may require a presence/absence survey prior to commencing project activities.

Consultation areas in Arkansas were identified and the need to in some circumstances contact the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and/or purchase data from the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission was addressed. Equally important was the discussion of on-the-ground bat surveys.

AECC’s experience with artificial bat habitat was also addressed.

A copy of the slides from the Presentation can be downloaded here.

Written by:

Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C.

Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C. on:

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