2 May 2007 - 10:08
  • News Code: 103652

The US Energy Department named two areas in need of more high voltage power lines, namly The Southwest transmission corridor and The Mid-Atlantic corridor.

A law signed by President Bush in 2005 is changing the dynamics between states and energy companies. A provision of the Energy Policy Act gave the federal government input into where high priority transmission lines should be built, as well as the authority to order them built if state and regional groups don’t.

In the first application of the provision, the Energy Department named two areas in need of more high voltage power lines. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman identified them as “national interest“ corridors during an afternoon briefing on Friday. The Southwest transmission corridor included seven counties in Southern California, three counties in Arizona, and one in Nevada. The Mid-Atlantic corridor consisted of parts of Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and all of New Jersey, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.

Bodman said the plan will “set us on the path to modernize our constrained and congested electric power infrastructure. I am confident the department’s actions will help facilitate the infrastructure growth necessary to meet the demands of our growing economy.“

The current grid “is aging and stressed. Simply put, it is no longer adequate to meet the demands of the 21st century.“ He said that the government would be taking a more aggressive role in energy projects opposed by local groups. “The parochial interests that shaped energy policy in the 20th century will no longer work.“

A spokeswoman for the department said that the proposal included the right for commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to override state and local regulators if they do not issue permits for designated private lands. In addition, energy companies could appeal the delay or denial of power line projects through the Commission. Permits for corridors in national parks, forests, or other public lands would be issued by different agencies.

There will be two months of public hearings and discussions on the projected line construction.

The Energy Department’s plan has lots of critics. Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York said, “The federal government is continuing to try to usurp state authority and override the Constitution.“

In a press release, Virginia’s Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell said that he recognized the need for electricity on the East Coast, but the feds needed to balance that need with the needs of the states. He stated he had serious concerns about the department’s decision. “There must be a greater role for both the states and their citizens in decisions involving electric transmission siting. Our office will be expressing these concerns to the various federal agencies and office holders involved in the days ahead.“

And in Congress, Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Thomas Davis III of Virginia have co-authored a bill that would require the federal government to consider the impact on private property, historical sites, and other factors before designating a national interest corridor.

While the Energy department has so far only designated two corridors, they have identified several others, including sections of New England, the Phoenix-Tucson area in Arizona, the Seattle-Portland area in the Pacific Northwest, and the San Francisco Bay area.



News Code 103652

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