Archive for the ‘Energy Policy Act of 2005’ Category

Unclogging the Electric Traffic Jam

Section 216 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (you can skip right to page 354) aimed to modernize our current transmission infrastructure by identifying and easing spots of electric transmission congestion across the states. To begin, Section 216 directed the Department of Energy to conduct a nation-wide study of the congestion and identify “any geographic area experiencing electric energy transmission capacity constraints or congestion that adversely affects consumers.” These areas of interest – designated “national interest electric transmission corridors” (NIETCs) – could ostensibly “provide FERC with limited siting authority,” according to a DOE FAQ on the topic.

Photo by Shyaulis Andrjus. Some rights reserved.

Well, the DOE published the National Electric Transmission Congestion Study in August of 2006, and let’s just say it wasn’t received very well by a lot of folks. Thirteen folks (or sets of folks) to be exact. On the first of February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – after reviewing thirteen petitions challenging the DOE’s implementation of Section 216 – issued a decision vacating the entire study and the NIETC designations therein. The opinion in California Wilderness Coalition v. U.S. Dept. of Energy found that “DOE failed to properly consult with the affected States in conducting the Congestion Study and failed to undertake any environmental study for its NIETC Designation as required by the National Environmental Protection Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4332(C).”

Is that all?

“We also determine that these failings were not harmless errors.”


Stoel Rives has published a very readable memo that discusses in further detail how this decision, along with two other major court and agency actions, has served to “limit” and “undermine” the federal siting authority established in Section 216. Sounds like there are a lot of kinks to work out before “traffic” eases up.

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