Obama Administration Tries Team Approach to Ramrodding Power Lines

Jon Wellinghoff’s plans to put FERC in control greasing the skids for big new transmission lines isn’t going so well, so the Obama administration is trying a new approach.  And they are just recycling Wellinghoff’s tired old justifications.

The White House issued a press release today announcing that:

In October of 2009, nine Federal entities including, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding increasing their coordination to expedite and simplify building of transmission lines on Federal lands.

Leveraging this interagency collaboration and expanding the scope of activity beyond Federal lands, the Administration’s recently formed Rapid Response Team for Transmission (RRTT), comprised of these same nine agencies, will accelerate responsible and informed deployment of these seven key transmission facilities by:

  • Coordinating statutory permitting, review, and consultation schedules and processes among involved federal and state agencies as appropriate through Integrated Federal Planning, [running roughshod over federal law and trying to illegally control state regulation]
  • Applying a uniform and consistent approach to consultations with Tribal governments, and, [screwing the Indians again]
  • Expeditiously resolving interagency conflicts and ensuring that all involved agencies are fully engaged and meeting schedules. [rushing environmental studies and ignoring land owners’ due process rights]

I have added my translations in brackets to the standard FERC-speak recycled from Wellinghoff’s pronouncements.  There is no news here except for the “leveraging” of the goofy “RRTT.”

Here’s the meat of the announcement:

Crossing twelve states the RRTT’s seven selected pilot project transmission lines are as follows:

  • Boardman-Hemingway Line powering Oregon and Idaho:

The new 500 kilovolt (kV) transmission line proposed by Idaho Power would create an approximately 300 mile long, single-circuit electric transmission line from a proposed substation near Boardman, Oregon to the Hemingway Substation near Melba, Idaho—known as the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line Project or B2H Project.  According to the developer of this project during peak construction, this project is estimated to create about 500 jobs in Idaho and Oregon.

  • Gateway West Project to bring new transmission across Wyoming and Idaho:

Jointly proposed by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, this project would add approximately 1,150 miles of new, high-voltage transmission lines between the Windstar Substation near Glenrock, Wyoming and the Hemingway Substation near Melba, Idaho. According to the developer of this project, during peak construction, it is estimated to create between 1,100 and 1,200 jobs.

  • Hampton-Rochester-La Crosse Line to  power to Minnesota and Wisconsin:

This double- circuit capable 345 kV transmission line will run between a new substation near Hampton, Minnesota, a new substation north of Pine Island, Minnesota, and continue on to cross the Mississippi River near Alma, Wisconsin. A single circuit 345 kV line will be built in Wisconsin to a new substation in the La Crosse area. Two 161 kV lines will be built between the new substation near Pine Island and existing substations northwest and east of Rochester. According to the developer of this project, approximately 1,650 jobs will be created during peak construction.

  • Oregon to get additional transmission from Cascade Crossing Line:

Portland General Electric’s proposed Cascade Crossing Transmission Project includes approximately 210 miles of 500 kV transmission line from Boardman to Salem, Oregon—for the construction of four new substations, expansion of three existing substations, and upgrades to the existing transmission systems near Salem.  According to the developer, Cascade Crossing is expected to create about 450 jobs during peak construction.

  • SunZia Transmission, LLC to bring power to New Mexico and Arizona:

SunZia Transmission, LLC plans to construct and operate up to two 500 kV transmission lines originating at a new substation in Lincoln County in the vicinity of Ancho, New Mexico, and terminating at the Pinal Central Substation in Pinal County near Coolidge, Arizona. According to the developer estimated job creation will be about 3,408 direct jobs during the construction period.

  • Susquehanna to Roseland Line brings new transmission to Pennsylvania and New Jersey:

PPL Electric Utilities (PPL) and Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) have proposed the Susquehanna-Roseland power line project which includes an approximately 145-mile long 500 kV transmission line from the Susquehanna Substation in Pennsylvania to the Roseland Substation in New Jersey, and several 500 – 230 kV substations in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Based on the current schedule for the environmental review, the project is expected to be in service in the spring of 2015.  According to the project’s developer, over 2000 jobs will be created in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

  • Transwest Express to stand-up transmission from Wyoming to Utah and Nevada:

TransWest Express LLC plans to construct and operate a more than 700 mile, 600 kV, transmission line which is estimated by the developer to create 1,035-1,550 direct jobs per year at peak construction. This project will facilitate the development of new wind projects in Wyoming.

As you can see from the list, the Obama White House has jumped on board the Project Mountaineer train by including the Susquehanna-Roseland line in its hit list.  The S-R line is currently being “held up” by the National Park Service, which is proceeding according to federal law to study the impacts of the line on federal land.  That process is in process and “on schedule” with no problems.  The line is also the subject of an appeal of the NJ BPU’s approval of a state certificate of need for the line that was issued last year.  The federal government has no jurisdiction over the NJ Supreme Court’s deliberation of this appeal.  The NJ natural resources agencies have refused to issue any construction permits for the line until NPS has completed its recommendations, which involve rerouting the line.  This is a very reasonable stance, and is, again, not subject to federal authority.  In short, there appears to be no reason to put S-R on the Obama hit list, because everything is proceeding according to law.

There is another interesting line on this list, the Gateway West Line which starts near Glenrock, WY.  Guess what else is about 100 miles from Glenrock?  The Black Thunder coal mine, the biggest steam coal mine in the US.  Do you think the Gateway West line is all about wind power?  I don’t.  For more information click here and read item 4 on the post.  Then click here to see how federal transmission line plans, which claim to be about wind power, are really all about moving coal-fired power to population centers.

And about the Boardman-Hemingway line how do you think these land owners feel about being “leveraged” by the new team?

The Obama administration is doing its best to implement Cheney transmission policies by federal fiat.  I guess we should be thankful he didn’t convene a secret energy task force.

4 thoughts on “Obama Administration Tries Team Approach to Ramrodding Power Lines

  1. But isn’t this Obama’s Secret Energy Task Force? Oh wait, it’s the IOUs’ Secret Energy Task Force that they told a gullible Obama was all about lowering electric rates and promoting renewables. Why didn’t anyone do the least amount of research to find out it’s 10 pounds of BS in a 5 pound bag! I try to never say “I told you so,” but in this case I may make an exception. What a charlie foxtrot!

    • Well, yes, the RRTT (or the er-tit, as I have started pronouncing the acronym) does operate in secret, just like Cheney’s task force. Remember what the national organization of state PSCs noted in their comments to FERC over a month ago? “Given that our members remain the primary transmission siting authorities, we are disappointed that we were not privy to the details or even informal conversations about this proposal prior to the above-referenced meeting, especially since the proposal has been under discussion since June and was vetted with industry stakeholders long before it was even revealed to us.”

  2. Rattle cages. I was leaving messages asking what this meant for state regulatory authority over transmission lines and got a call from Lauren Azar. TWO projects I’ve been working on targeted by Obama, it’s outrageous, color me pissed, with little time today to deal with it. I’ve got the Reply Brief for CapX 2020 Hampton-LaCrosse due TOMORROW! We’re under siege. Here are the questions I’m posting on every article I can find:

    What does Obama’s transmission “streamlining” “fast track” agenda mean for states’ authority over need for and routing of transmission?

    What does Obama’s transmission “streamlining” “fast track” agenda mean for federal agencies charges with NEPA environmental review of these transmission projects?

    What does Obama’s transmission “streamlining” “fast track” agenda mean for public participation and due process?

    Does Obama have a clue how many Minnesota landowners/voters are affected by CapX 2020 transmission?

    • Carol,

      Thanks so much for your information on the Minnesota lines. I don’t know much about the Hampton-La Crosse line, so I didn’t comment on it in my original post.

      As you point out, these federal “streamlining” plans are all about adding new pressure on citizens trying to create rational energy policy in state regulatory processes. Nothing is broken about the processes clearly established in state law, federal law and existing court decisions. Nothing is “broken” or “delayed”. It’s just that the big power conglomerates want to shut us out of the process. We won’t let that happen.

      Thanks for all your hard work and solid information on legalectric.org.

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