Electric Transmission Facilities & Energy Corridors

To build America's clean energy economy we must update our transmission grid for the 21st century, so that we can efficiently move power from the new energy frontier to the places it is consumed. - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Transmission towers at sunsetThe U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management are committed to processing applications in an environmentally responsible manner for electric transmission facilities that expand and modernize the transmission grid. Processing of the applications will be done in accordance with applicable laws and through a coordinated approach that involves local and state governments, tribes, other federal agencies, local communities, and other stakeholders.


We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. - President Obama

The President has stated that the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. These facilities will accommodate additional electric capacity over the next several decades, including new renewable generation as well as improve reliability and reduce congestion in the western grid. These electric transmission facilities will transmit the energy that will power our future.


Transmission towers in the Western U.S.Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission (RRTT)

The RRTT aims to improve the overall quality and timeliness of electric transmission infrastructure permitting, review, and consultation by the Federal government on both Federal and non-Federal lands through:
  • Coordinating statutory permitting, review, and consultation schedules and processes among involved Federal and state agencies, as appropriate, through Integrated Federal Planning;
  • Applying a uniform and consistent approach to consultations with Tribal governments; and,
  • Resolving interagency conflicts and ensuring that all involved agencies are fully engaged and meeting timelines.  

"Transmission is a vital component of our nation's energy portfolio, and these seven lines, when completed, will serve as important links across our country to increase our power grid’s capacity and reliability," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  "This is the kind of critical infrastructure we should be working together to advance in order to create jobs and move our nation toward energy independence."

The RRTT will initially focus on seven projects. Four projects that involve BLM-managed public lands are:

Boardman to Hemingway Line to power 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.

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.

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.

For a list and map of the transmission line pilot projects, please visit the DOE Interagency Federal Permitting Transmission Tracking System at: www.doe-etrans.us.


Interagency Transmission MOU

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by nine Federal Departments and Agencies on October 23, 2009.  The goal of the agreement is to speed approval of new transmission lines, reduce expense and uncertainty in the process, generate cost savings, increase accessibility to renewable energy and jumpstart job creation. The agreement will cut approval time off the normal Federal permit process and help break down the barriers to siting new transmission lines by:
  • Designating a single Federal point-of-contact for all Federal authorizations;
  • Facilitating coordination and unified environmental documentation among project applicants, Federal Agencies, states, and tribes involved in the siting and permitting process;
  • Establishing clear timelines for agency review and coordination; and
  • Establishing a single consolidated environmental review and administrative record.
 
Instead of applicants going to multiple agencies, a single lead agency will coordinate all permits and approvals.  The new process will keep applications on track by requiring agencies to set and meet clear deadline and improve transparency by creating a single record to be posted on line at the following webpage: www.doe-etrans.us.

The BLM's guidance for consistent implementation of the Interagency Transmission MOU can be found in:  IM 2013-118- Revised Implementation Guidance for the Interagency Transmission Memorandum of Understanding


To view a larger map of proposed energy corridors, click on the map or select this link.
West Wide Energy Corridors

Section 368 (a) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the Act), Public Law 109-58 (H.R. 6), enacted August 8, 2005, directs the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior (the Agencies) to designate under their respective authorities corridors on federal land in 11 Western States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New  Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities (energy corridors). A Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) was prepared that proposed the designation of more than 6,000 miles of Section 368 energy corridors among the various Agency land use plans is a forward-looking response, mandated by statute, to address a national concern.
 
BLM Approved a Record of Decision for the PEIS on January 14, 2009. The ROD included a listing of Interagency Operating Procedures (IOP) intended to foster long-term, systematic planning for energy transport development in the West, provide industry with a coordinated and consistent interagency permitting process, and provide practicable measures to avoid or minimize environmental harm from future development within the corridors.
 
West Wide Energy Corridors Website: http://corridoreis.anl.gov/
West-Wide Energy Corridor Litigation and Approved Settlement Agreement

On July 7, 2009 multiple organizations (Plaintiffs) filed a Complaint in the Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 3:09-cv-03048-JW (N.D. Cal.). The Plaintiffs raised a variety of challenges in response to the BLM’s January 2009 Record of Decision. 

The BLM, United States Forest Service (USFS), Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Justice worked collaboratively with the Plaintiffs to develop a settlement with specific actions to mutually resolve the challenges in the Complaint. The agencies and Plaintiffs agreed to settle these matters without any adjudication or admission of fact or law by any party and to avoid protracted and costly litigation as well as preserve judicial resources.  The case was dismissed pursuant to the Settlement Agreement on July 11, 2012.

“This is a win-win outcome that will support the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above energy approach by increasing the reliability of our pipeline and power line networks and unlocking American-made energy, while helping to ensure that transmission lines and natural gas pipelines that cross public lands are sited in the right places. 

"By requiring periodic review of our nation’s energy corridors, with the benefit of thorough public participation, the settlement agreement will help meet our nation’s needs for expanded domestic energy infrastructure while protecting land, water and wildlife. 

"The interagency agreements outlined in the settlement will provide greater certainty for transmission and pipeline developers, whose proposals are subject to environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.” – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

In fulfillment of the Settlement Agreement, BLM, USFS, and DOE executed a Memorandum of Understanding  (MOU) on July 8, 2013. The MOU includes a Work Plan for the Regional Periodic Reviews as Attachment A. The Agencies also approved a Work Plan for the Corridor Study  with the execution of the MOU.

Included in the Settlement Agreement was the recognition of 36 of the 119 BLM approved corridors as Corridors of Concern (COC).  The BLM Washington Office has developed a series of Corridor Maps showing all the approved corridors with COC highlighted in red.  A listing of the West Wide Energy Corridors including COC with information about the areas of concern is available

As part of the Settlement Agreement the BLM and USFS agreed to issue new policy for use of the West Wide Energy Corridors on Agency administered lands.  In fulfillment of that requirement the BLM issued a policy for the administration of West Wide Energy Corridors on BLM administered lands, IM-2014-080, effective April 7, 2014.


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