DoE NIETC Process Happening — Get Your Licks In Now

Because we were so focused on PATH here in WV, we completely missed the development of the 2009 National Impact Electric Transmission Corridor plan.  This process, mandated in the Cheney-inspired 2005 Energy Policy Act, is conducted by the US Dept. of Energy every three years.  The NEITC project rests on some dubious assumptions about something called “transmission congestion” which has never really been defined.

The word “congestion” brings to mind the somewhat scary notion that the US transmission system may be clogged like a water or sewer pipe.  Power company propaganda always tries to imply that this kind of congestion is a real danger at the present time.  Power company media managers use words like “ brownouts,” “blackouts” and “reliability” to herd compliant reporters into thinking that this is the real menace.

Actual capacity congestion is fairly rare, and short lived, on the US grid because (1) the extensive and interconnected bulk transmission system makes it relatively simple to reroute electricity around physical bottlenecks, and (2) grid managers are highly skilled and have a wide range of sophisticated control technology on hand.

If you look behind the media accounts and read what power companies and regulators really say to each other, this kind of congestion is rarely discussed as a problem.  Instead, you will see lots of talk about “economic congestion.”  Economic congestion is not a physical problem with the transmission system.  It is created only by the rules that govern how grid managers select sources of power that they send to meet increased load on their system.

In addition to dispatch rules, which have distorted investment and innovation on the US grid, the ever-increasing centralization of the grid has meant that many areas of high population no longer generate their own power locally.  Particularly at times of high demand, under current dispatch rules, grid managers are required to bring in power from hundreds of miles away because the power pricing system has been rigged to favor large power plants sited away from population centers, mainly because they are coal-fired and extremely polluting.

So, as I said above, we missed the last NIETC process that rigged the game in favor of big and foolish high voltage transmission projects like PATH.  A lot has changed since 2009.  The last NIETC designation was completely thrown out in the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The 9th Circuit judges ordered the DoE to significantly increase participation by state regulators in the process and also required much a more extensive environmental impact study than in the past.

Of course, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came up with an ingenious plan to put the NIETC designation process directly in the hands of the power companies.  Late last year, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff suggested that the DoE turn over the NIETC process to FERC, in violation of federal law.  Wellinghoff wanted to completely reverse the 2005 Energy Policy Act so that power companies would identify where they wanted to put transmission lines, and then they would develop the corridor designation to justify their projects.  This obviously crazy scheme met with almost universal criticism, especially from Congress.

Over at Stop PATH, Keryn has the latest update on the current NIETC process with suggestions about how we can all get involved, including links to the public comment process.  The comment deadline is March 30, so if you have ideas you would like to share with the Dept. of Energy planners, you only have two weeks.  They need to hear from us this time.

One thought on “DoE NIETC Process Happening — Get Your Licks In Now

  1. Thank you for sharing highly valuable information to a region that is about to be
    broken-hearted that our nearly 50-year on National Recreation Area is about to be
    greatly de-valued with a lot of tree-cutting, blasting, widening of the pathway of a new
    nearly 200 feet high new transmission line supposedly being squeezed into a 1920’s
    narrow single line – named Pennsylvania Power & Light – and a major New Jersey outfit,
    Public Service Electric & Gas that has no claim to right-of-way here, but who apparently
    wants to “piggy-back” on the weak case of PPL named above. Are rights-of’-way ever
    stopped for OVERSTEPPING THEIR CLAIM? This park has seasons when roads must be
    closed for valid reasons, but the utilities will take over and park visitors (over 5 million
    per year from the NY-NJ-PA megalopolis) will be second-fiddle, the precedent will open
    the door to other violators of the definition of “National Parks” and lead this park into
    de-certification. It is the largest park in this 3-state heavily-populated region, 72,000
    acres, but small in comparison to all of our major parks. If anything, the need for open
    space is GROWING, BUT THE PRESENCE OF THESE LINES WILL REDUCE THE OPEN
    SPACE ACREAGE not only in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area but
    Appalachian Trail and the crossing of the Wild & Scenic Delaware River. Please send
    your protests to: http://chn.ge/noSRxline and sign the petition on Facebook. You will
    be helping turn away a permanent eyesore about to be inflicted upon a Rural
    Americana lining a green valley with farm fields, many water falls, glacial lakes,
    hundreds of hiking trails, picnic grounds, many beaches and boat/canoe launches,
    thousands of acres of archaeology layered beneath of soil down to Paleo times.
    Please contact us and come visit the area. Try to get your signature on the petition
    no later than Sunday March 18th.and let us know how we can be of help to YOU.
    Nancy Shukaitis, nshukite@yahoo.com

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