Friday, March 07, 2008

DOE Denies Petitions For Rehearing National Corridors Designations

Mar 6: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) denied requests for rehearing of the Mid-Atlantic and the Southwest Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (National Corridors) designated by DOE in October 2007 [See WIMS 10/3/07] as areas of significant electricity congestion and constraint. The designation of national corridors was made in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) and began with the release of the National Electric Transmission Congestion Study on August 8, 2006 [See WIMS 8/9/06].

In affirming the National Corridor designations, DOE dismissed as being without merit challenges raised by the applicants for rehearing, citing extensive data analysis conducted in its 2006 National Interest Electric Transmission study, ample opportunity for public review and comment, and several other key reasons. As a result of its denial, DOE said the National Corridor designations were effective October 5,2007, and will remain in effect until October 7,2019, unless the Department rescinds or renews the designations after notice and opportunity for comment.

DOE indicates that numerous parties in each of the designated corridors filed timely applications for rehearing of the Agencies designation Report and Order. Some parties also requested that the National Corridor designations be stayed. On January 10, eleven regional and national environmental organizations announced plans to file suit against the Department of Energy (DOE) over its final designation of the Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor [See WIMS 1/10/08]. On the same day, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit in Federal court in the central district of California to challenge DOE's designation of the Southwest National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor [See WIMS 1/14/08]. The Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor includes some or all counties in: DE, OH, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WV, and DC; and the Southwest Area National Corridor includes: seven counties in Southern California and three counties in western Arizona.

DOE said it reviewed the specific issues raised by applicants for rehearing and cited reasons for denying the requests in an Order sent to the Federal Register which should be published soon. DOE noted that the findings of congestion in the designated areas are well-founded and based on data and studies as required by statute, and were based on analysis demonstrating that persistent transmission congestion that adversely affects consumers exists in these two areas. DOE also highlighted that its approach to defining the geographic boundaries of the affected areas is consistent with the statutory requirements. The corridor designation process provided all interested parties with fair and ample opportunities to provide input and comments, including a 60-day public comment period and over 60 hours of public meetings across the country. Additionally, after issuing the draft National Corridors in April 2007, DOE consulted extensively with State officials and local agencies, regional entities, and the public.

In addition, DOE said while it encourages diversification of our nation’s energy sources, DOE is not required by statute to analyze non-transmission alternatives for relief of congestion prior to issuing a National Corridor designation. Lastly, DOE said, "Federal statutes such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act are not applicable to DOE's designation of national corridors. Rather, reviews under these statutes would be conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before Federal approval could be granted under the Federal Power Act for the construction of a transmission project."

Access a release from DOE (click here). Access the 48-page prepublication denial Order to be published in the FR (click here). Access DOE documents related to the designations (click here). Access the DOE National Corridor website for extensive information (click here). Access a 1/10/08 release from National Wildlife Federation with links to additional information including the complaint filed by the groups (click here). Access a 1/10/08 release from CBD and link to the suit filed (click here). [*Energy]