Energy & Environment

West Texas Transmission Line Project Takes A Step Forward

The project calls for new high-voltage lines across five sparsely-populated counties near the New Mexico border.

High-voltage power lines being installed in Colorado in 2013. Similar electric infrastructure could be headed to new parts of West Texas.

Huge new transmission lines could be coming to Far West Texas.

Utility companies say almost 200 miles of high-voltage power lines are needed to serve the oil and gas industry. The project is still in its early stages, but it could face opposition. 

The state grid operator ERCOT recently endorsed the project, saying its own study agreed with what utility companies Oncor and AEP had found: that rural West Texas is using a lot more power.

“They had new oil and gas customers that had come and said hey we have this new load that wants to connect to your system,” says Jeff Billo, ERCOT’s Senior Manager of Transmission Planning.

The project calls for new high-voltage lines across five sparsely-populated counties near the New Mexico border.

Oil and gas is an up-and-down industry, but Billo says growing oil production is still creating long-term power needs in these areas.

“Once you have these wells on your system, once you have these processing plants, that demand does not go away,” he says. 

These huge lines would be the first of their kind for much of this region. So there could be a land battle brewing here.

A spokesperson for the Public Utility Commission of Texas says it’s reasonable to expect some landowners won’t want these lines on their property. But utilities can use eminent domain to force their way through if necessary.

The commission still has to approve the project. If that happens, ERCOT estimates it could be another four to five years before it’s finished.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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