The Public Utility Commission of Texas unanimously approved May 9 an application by Electric Transmission Texas, LLC for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to build a 345-kV transmission line from the Laredo area into the Rio Grande Valley. 

The transmission project includes construction of approximately 156 miles of 345-kV transmission lines that will connect ETT's Lobo Substation near Laredo with substations north of Edinburg and will add two new substations along the line route. The cost of the project is estimated at approximately $318 million.  

In approving the CCN application, the PUCT also approved a unanimous settlement with nearly 100 landowners along the route, the PUCT staff and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The new transmission line from the Laredo to the Edinburg area will cross portions of Webb, Zapata, Jim Hogg, Brooks, Starr and Hidalgo counties. ETT plans to construct the transmission line on steel single-pole structures, an approach overwhelmingly supported by landowners. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) determined Oct. 11, 2011, that the project is critical for the reliability of the ERCOT system and, specifically, the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Currently, there are only two 345-kV transmission lines serving the Valley. Both of the existing lines import power from the Corpus Christi area and run parallel to the Gulf Coast, which means both are vulnerable to hurricanes and other severe weather. Work to upgrade those two lines already is underway and should be complete this summer.  

ETT is a joint venture between subsidiaries of American Electric Power and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. The joint venture acquires, constructs, owns and operates transmission facilities within ERCOT, primarily in and around the AEP Texas Central Company and AEP Texas North Company service territories.