City Council Authorizes Action in Response to DOE’s Transmission Line Project

December 8, 2017

The Oak Ridge City Council unanimously approved three actions during a special called meeting on Friday, December 8, in response to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) decision to proceed with an electrical transmission line project on top of Pine Ridge.

Click here to view video of the special-called meeting...

City Council, City staff, and citizens of Oak Ridge voiced concerns about the impacts the project would have on nearby neighborhoods and the City as a whole.

As a result of Friday’s review and discussion, the following actions were approved:

  • A motion to request a 30-day delay of clear-cutting for the installation of transmission towers and lines on Pine Ridge for the Y-12 electrical substation project;
  • A motion to authorize the City Manager and City Attorney to review legal options and engage outside counsel, if necessary, regarding the clear-cutting and installation of transmission towers and lines for the Y-12 electrical substation project; and
  • A motion to request that the City of Oak Ridge become a cooperating agency in all DOE National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) actions within our City limits. A cooperating agency is an agency that has jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved in a proposal (or a reasonable alternative).

The proposed 30-day delay will provide the NNSA with the opportunity to comply with its statutory obligations pursuant to NEPA and allow the City of Oak Ridge to receive additional technical information used in the decision making process to locate the project on Pine Ridge. The City also strongly encourages NNSA to host a public meeting in the immediate Scarboro and Groves Park Commons neighborhoods, as required by NEPA statutes, during the same 30-day period.

As stated in a previous City of Oak Ridge news release, the electrical project includes plans to clear-cut 2.1 miles of mature trees and vegetation along the crest of Pine Ridge in order to install more than thirty 79-foot transmission towers. The power lines would service the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) being constructed inside the Y-12 National Security Complex, which is located on the other side of Pine Ridge from residential and commercial properties in the City.

Friday’s meeting was scheduled after the City received a response from the NNSA informing Mayor Warren Gooch that the agency now plans to move forward with the project after a brief delay, which was requested by the City in November. In the letter, Dale Christenson, Federal Project Director for NNSA’s UPF project, wrote that the only feasible option remaining is to alter the color of the power poles in order to minimize the visual impact to the surrounding community. NNSA has since requested that the City inform project managers of the color they choose for the poles by Wednesday, December 13.

City Council members continued to bring up concerns, most notably a failure in communication and lack of prior notification of a project that had been under development by DOE since December 2015. The City was only recently informed of the plan.

The City of Oak Ridge recognizes the importance of the UPF project, but requests an additional postponement that would allow the City and DOE to have a more meaningful dialogue about the project.