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Minutes for HB2317 - Committee on Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications

Short Title

Requiring certain electric transmission lines to acquire a siting permit from the state corporation commission.

Minutes Content for Tue, Mar 19, 2019

Nick Myers gave an overview of the contents of the bill. (Attachment 1)

Representative Gail Finney provided information. (Attachment 2) She noted that last summer through fall, 57, 105 foot tall concrete and metal transmission line poles were installed in the small front yards of many property owners, and closely placed within a 2.8 mile distance in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood that she represents in northeast Wichita, by Westar.  She also mentioned there was no formal public notification for the community-at-large regarding the gargantuan poles, nor was there any oversight of the project by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), the City of Wichita or Sedgwick County.

Lawanda Deshazer presented information. (Attachment 3) She indicated the homeowners, the neighbors and the community in whole is dealing with the aftermath of home depreciation, home displacement and possible future health ramifications due to the transmission poles having been installed in their yards.  

Ann Fox presented information. (Attachment 4) She stated the electric utility infrastructure being replaced in the area was 60 years old.  It was being replaced with infrastructure designed to meet needs for power 60 years into the future, and in particular the needs of the rapidly expanding Innovation Campus at Wichita State University.  Had the KCC been required to to review the sitings and to evaluate population density, aesthetics and the surrounding location before proceeding, she had no doubt serious consideration would have been given to routes around instead of through dense residential communities in the city's urban core.

Kevin Myles provided information on the content on the bill. (Attachment 5) It seeks to strengthen the permit requirements and notification requirements for Electric Utilities who seek to install or operate high voltage transmission lines in urban/residential areas.  These additional protections are necessary to protect the rights of homeowners and residents as evidenced directly by the recent installation of high voltage transmission lines in the front yards and areas surrounding homes located in Central Northeast Wichita.

Letitia Harmon presented information. (Attachment 6) She stated the contents of this bill would force public utilities like Westar into a state approval and public hearing process that would require a meaningful impact evaluation prior to any electric transmission line expansion.  This is a means of protecting the rights of Kansans to have equal protections and due process.

Zack Pistora presented information. (Attachment 7) He indicated the contents of the bill would amend existing law concerning electric transmission lines and siting.  It would create a definition of an "urban electric transmission line" and requires an electric utility to acquire a siting permit from the KCC prior to beginning site preparation.  It also prompts the utility to consider the need for the proposed transmission line as well as the reasonableness of the locations, due to its local aesthetics, location, environment and population density of the proposed site.

Brandon Johnson provided information. (Attachment 8) He stated he would simply ask for support giving citizens a voice how their communities look, feel, and their ability to maintain property values.  The contents of the bill gives residents a chance to hear the truth from utility companies before work is done because even a company with the best of intentions can make a generational mistake as is currently seen in his district.

The above individuals stood for questions following their presentations.

Kevin Bryant presented information (Attachment 9) about a transmission line rebuild in northeast Wichita and how the company is responding to community concerns over the 69kV line.  He explained for the committee the process the company went through to notify residents of the rebuild of this 60-year-old transmission line.  Bryant told the committee that Westar (Evergy) could have done a much better job of communicating with the neighborhood and being more specific about the types of structures that would be going in.  In reflecting on the bill, Bryant said the parameters for when a utility would be required to obtain a siting permit and conduct a public meeting go beyond what is necessary to maintain the desired balance between informing those impacted and efficiently and affordably meeting project deadlines to ensure reliability.  He said Evergy would be grateful for the opportunity to work with the sponsors of the bill to explore solutions that do not necessarily involve a change in statute but that could meet the intent of this legislation.  He stood for questions.