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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Federal Government’s Role in Electric Transmission Facility Siting

Adam Vann
Legislative Attorney

The location and permitting of electricity transmission lines and facilities have traditionally been the exclusive province of the states, with only limited exceptions. However, the increasing complexity of the interstate transmission grid, as well as widespread power outages in recent history, has resulted in calls for an increased role for the federal government in transmission siting in an attempt to enhance reliability.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct; P.L. 109-58) established a role for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in making transmission siting decisions. The act directed DOE to create “transmission corridors” in locations that would help to ease strain on the interstate electricity transmission grid. The act also granted FERC secondary authority over transmission siting in the corridors. This new federal role in a decisionmaking process that had previously been the province of state governments was predictably met with resistance from those seeking to protect local and regional interests. However, the process of creating “transmission corridors” and increasing the federal role in transmission siting has moved forward. Indeed, there have been calls for further expansion of the federal role in transmission siting by some policymakers and commentators.

This report looks at the history of transmission siting and the reason behind the movement toward an increased federal role in siting decisions, explains the new federal role in transmission siting pursuant to EPAct, and discusses legal issues related to this and any potential future expansions of the federal role.

Date of Report: October 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R40657
Price: $29.95

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