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City to try and keep El Paso Electric power lines out of East Side neighborhoods

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:29:47 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 02:07:47 PM CST

El Paso Electric power plant proposed

EL PASO, Texas -

The City of El Paso is trying to keep massive new power lines out of the middle of some neighborhoods.

El Paso Electric wants to run power lines from a proposed power plant near Zaragoza and Montana to a substation near Rich Beam and Montwood.        

El Paso Electric Assistant Vice President for External Affairs, Marybeth Stevens said it needs the new power plant to provide electricity for a growing city.

The proposed power plant near Zaragoza and Montana will be outside city limits but power lines would go through city neighborhoods and city council wants to make sure the lines don't disturb neighbors.

"They (residents) bought their homes without any knowledge that this was going to be done and all of a sudden the electric company comes and builds these enormous power lines overhead," said City Rep Michiel Noe on Tuesday.

Noe said he'd prefer the power lines that run through the city to go underground in undeveloped areas. El Paso Electric says that'd be too expensive and Noe added the city has to be careful going forward because the costs of installing the lines will eventually trickle to the ratepayers.

Residents next to the proposed power plant are trying to prevent it from being built.  They're concerned about pollution and health effects. They also think the plant may create a water shortage because it uses water to create energy. Plus, they're concerned about safety because the plant will also be right next to a flammable gasoline tank storage yard.

"El Paso Electric very creatively used data that was very old and used models that were very old in order to come up with emission numbers or modeling projections that were below the standard so by doing that, they avoided having to do more extensive environmental research and having to redesign their plans," said Veronica Carbajal, an attorney for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid representing thousands of East El Paso County residents.

Stevens said El Paso Electric has vetted the plant for safety. "El Paso Electric has performed any analysis and tests and fulfilled all state regulatory and legal requirements to move forward with our permits for this plant. We would not put a facility in an area that we thought was in any way more harmful than another place.  We would never put our employees at risk if there was any environmental or safety hazards to them," said Stevens.

An administrative judge should make a decision on El Paso Electric's permit next week. Then the case heads to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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