DOE Proposes Major Transmission Corridors for CA and MidAtlantic

By Published On: April 30, 2007

The Department of Energy released two draft national corridors plans under the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 on April 26 – including one covering California, Arizona, and Nevada. The proposed Southwest National Corridor extends from the southern end of Nevada to southern San Joaquin Valley and through Southern California to the Mexican border, reaching into the southeast corner of Arizona. The second proposed corridor, the MidAtlantic National Corridor, covers Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. “These draft designations set us on the path to modernize our constrained and congested electric power infrastructure,” stated Samuel Bodman, DOE head. Under EPAct, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was given the authority to permit a transmission project within a designated major national transmission corridor if California or another state fails to site such a project. “A federal permit could empower the permit holder to exercise the right of eminent domain to acquire the necessary property rights to build transmission projects,” according to DOE. The designation of the federal corridor could result in FERC stepping in and taking approval authority for the controversial $1.3 billion Powerlink transmission line in San Diego away from the California Public Utilities Commission. The proposed 150-mile route and the need for San Diego Gas & Electric’s line face ongoing opposition. The CPUC called the federal corridor designation “unnecessary” and “should not impact” its proceeding on the high voltage line. “Rather than to establish an unnecessary “transmission corridor” that encompasses essentially all of Southern California, the Federal Government should focus its efforts in several other areas,” state regulators said in a statement. Last August, DOE called Southern California a “critical transmission” area in its first National Electric Transmission Study. A close second was the Bay Area – deemed a “congestion area of concern” (Circuit, Aug. 11, 2006). In November, federal regulators voted to give themselves authority to site new transmission lines under certain circumstances. FERC would step in if state law does not consider interstate benefits, the applicant for the facility is a transmitting utility but does not qualify to apply for siting approval in the state, a state withholds approval for more than one year after the application is filed, and/or a state conditions its approval of a line such that it will not significantly reduce transmission congestion or it is not economically feasible (Circuit, Nov. 17, 2006). There will be a 60-day comment period after DOE publishes its National Corridor designations in the Federal Register. There will be three public hearings, including one in San Diego on May 17. To view DOE’s maps of the proposed corridors, see http://nietc.anl.gov/documents/index.cfm#maps.

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