In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) designated the Southwest Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (including parts of
and California ). The designation of a national corridor accomplishes two tasks: Arizona
- It signifies that the federal government has concluded that a transmission congestion problem exists in the area and requires timely solution.
- It enables the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), under certain conditions, to approve siting and construction of transmission facilities within the Corridor (Meyer 2007).
According to the DOE the congestion in the Southwest is significant and will worsen without sustained and appropriate actions such as the Corridor designation. The DOE also states that the designation does not necessarily preempt state jurisdiction, although this is disputed by states and environmental groups. Secretary of Energy, Samuel W. Bodman said, “The goal is simple—to keep reliable supplies of electric energy flowing to all Americans. By designating these National Corridors, we are encouraging stakeholders in these regions to identify solutions and take prompt action” (U.S. DOE 2007). The DOE explains that the Corridor designation does not:
- Determine how the affected area’s congestion problem should be solved.
- Propose, direct, order or authorize any activity.
- Endorse particular transmission projects.
- Circumvent compliance with any existing federal environmental requirements concerning transmission or other facilities (Meyer 2007).
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may take action under the following circumstances:
· The state does not have the authority to site the project.
· The state does not have the authority to consider interstate benefits associated with the project.
· The applicant does not qualify for a state permit because it does not serve end-use customers in the state.
· The state has withheld approval of the project for more than one year.
· The state has conditioned its approval such that the project would not significantly reduce congestion or be economically feasible (Meyer 2007).
The actions of FERC may be viewed by states and local jurisdictions as excluding their regulatory process. This appears to be a significant issue in the Corridor process receiving support from the states. The states of
and California both opposed the corridor designation. Arizona
The State of
offered much of its comment through the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). CPUC expressed general concern about the lack of state involvement in the FERC process. The FERC process generally seems to override any state concerns or denials. The CPUC noted that the corridor designation is “overly broad from a legislative and practical perspective, and could seriously impair California ’s coordination of its transmission and renewable energy planning” (State of California ). CPUC also argued that potential litigation over the siting of transmission lines under the Corridor/FERC process could lead to significant litigation which would cause significant delays for all interested parties. CPUC continued to argue that these delays would make the process more onerous than the existing processes and it would be better to let the stakeholders work out a compromise than letting the issue linger in litigation (State of CA ). The CPUC also argued that they are currently working to address the congested areas of CA Southern California and that the Corridor designation should not have occurred until the current state processes are complete.
The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is an agency similar to the California Public Utility Commission. In 2007 the ACC responded to a request for comments from the DOE regarding the Corridor designation. The ACC commented that the Corridor designation “in its entirety is unwarranted, not well founded on available information, and not needed in any location in
” (ACC 2007). The ACC also expressed concerns similar to Arizona regarding the lack of state and local control or interaction. California
The general function of a state is to serve the citizens of that particular state. It is to be expected that individual states would give siting priority to electric transmission projects that primarily serve their state over another state. However, this approach should be done within the legal confines of the siting process. If a state were to create a process that favored siting of transmission projects that only served that state it would seem to be open to a variety of lawsuits. Even though it is expected that states would favor projects in their own best interest it may not be the best choice. This puts everyone at a disadvantage and may create backlash among project proponents. The best approach would be for states to work together as part of a regional cooperative group that addressed the needs of a particular region rather than only identifying those needs within state boundaries. A regional approach favors the consumer and provides a better product in the end. Although the regional approach is not easy and does not always offer the best solution for individuals of a particular state it is likely the most effective approach for dealing with the increasingly congested transmission lines across the
. United States
The Corridor designation is a difficult issue and comparable to the advantages and disadvantages of regional approaches. The most controversial part of the Corridor designation appears to be the implication that there is little to no local involvement and if a project has been denied by a state or delayed FERC can override that determination. It may have been more savvy to create a process whereby the states involved received a seat at the table and were allowed to participate in discussions or the permitting process. Although there certainly may be additional time required for such participation it is still important that states are able to represent the needs and concerns of their citizens and not be ignored by the federal government.
Arizona Corporation Commission. 2007. http://www.cc.state.az.us/
Mayes, Kris. 2009. Arizona Corporation Commission. NARUC Electricity Committee Meeting. http://www.narucmeetings.org/
Meyer, David. 2007. Draft Southwest area national interest electric transmission corridor.
Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. http://sites.energetics. U.S.
. California Public Utilities Commission. http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/wholesale/02_planning/01_eap/nietc.htm California