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Energy Gateway South Transmission Line Project

Power transmission line at sunset.

Definitions and General Information

What is NEPA?
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the basic national law for protecting the environment. It requires all federal agencies to evaluate the impact of proposed major federal actions with respect to their significance on the human environment before decisions are made and the action is taken. It requires that NEPA documents concentrate on issues that are significant to the action in question. The NEPA process is intended to facilitate public involvement and help public officials make better decisions based on an understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, restore, and enhance the human environment.

What is an environmental impact statement (EIS)?
Required by the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental impact statement is a comprehensive public document that analyzes the impacts of a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. When completed, it is a tool for decision making as the EIS describes the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action, describes alternative actions, and provides an analysis of environmental impacts and ways to mitigate such impacts.

What issues are examined in an EIS?
An EIS examines physical and biological resources, resource uses, fire management, special designations, and social and economic conditions. These are further broken out as follows:

  • Physical and biological resources include air quality, cultural resources, fish and wildlife, geology, paleontology, special status species, soils, vegetation, visual resources and water.
  • Resource uses include minerals, lands and realty, livestock grazing, recreation, renewable energy, transportation and access.
  • Fire management includes prescribed burns and naturally occurring fires, as well as suppression.
  • Special designations may include Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Historic Trails.
  • Social and economic conditions include health and safety issues, economic development and environmental justice.

How can I participate in the EIS process?
The main opportunities for public involvement are: public scoping, public comment on the draft EIS, and public comment on the final EIS. In each of these opportunities to participate, the BLM invites the public to review the proposal and associated documents, and provide information that can assist the federal manager in making the final decision.

What is public scoping?
Public scoping is the process that federal agencies use to identify public issues and concerns relating to management actions on federal lands. Scoping is the process of identifying the range of issues, management concerns, preliminary alternatives, and other components of an EIS. Public scoping is the first opportunity for public involvement on a proposed action that will be analyzed in an EIS. A Notice of Intent to develop an environmental impact statement published in the Federal Register signifies the opening of the public scoping period. A series of public meetings are held throughout the project area to provide the public with information and solicit comments and input on the proposed action.

How are public comments used?
Public comments help ensure that the concerns of the public are taken into consideration, and that the deciding official has all factual information available prior to making a decision. Public comments provide valuable information to the deliberative process and help ensure that decisions are made in full view of the public, and contribute to better overall decision making.

What is the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)?
This law governs the administration of public lands by the Bureau of Land Management. It establishes the commitment to retain ownership of public lands, develop land use plans to manage the public lands, improve deteriorated lands, and manage lands to ensure productive capacity in perpetuity.

Under NEPA, federal agencies are required to work “in cooperation with state and local governments.” How does the BLM work in cooperation with state and local governments?
According to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations implementing this NEPA mandate, state, local, tribal and other federal entities may serve as cooperating agencies as appropriate. A cooperating agency must have the authority to grant permits for implementing the action and must have more than an interest in the proposed action. The cooperating agency must possess special expertise or knowledge regarding the impacts that a proposed action will have on local, regional, or state land use plans, policies, and controls. Participation as a cooperating agency requires that a Memorandum of Understanding is signed between the state or local government and the BLM which outlines the responsibilities of each party under the agreement as their involvement relates to the proposed action. If a state or local government chooses not to become a cooperating agency, the BLM will continue to coordinate as part of their normal course of business.

Are there cooperating agencies for the Gateway South transmission line project?
Yes. As of May 2010, the following are cooperating agencies for the project: the states of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah; the Department of Defense, U. S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Mesa, Moffat, and Rio Blanco counties, Colorado; Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand, Juab, Sanpete, and Uintah counties, Utah; Carbon, Sweetwater counties, Little Snake River Conservation District, Medicine Bow Conservation District, Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins Conservation District, and Sweetwater County Conservation District, Wyoming. The National Park Service requested cooperating agency status on May 9, 2011, and a Memorandum of Understanding is being prepared.


Information about transmission line projects

How is a proposed route determined?
A proposed route is developed by the applicant after detailed review of maps of existing energy corridors, BLM and other agency planning documents, roads and highways, private versus public lands, and obvious areas to be avoided (such as national parks or designated wilderness areas). After that review, a proposed route is initially established which meets the applicant’s purpose and need in order to submit an application to the BLM for a right-of-way grant. When the BLM reviews the application, they determine whether or not an EIS is necessary. If an EIS is necessary, the BLM participates in contracting an environmental planning firm to assist with the development of the EIS, paid for by the applicant (known as the third-party consultant). BLM and cooperating agencies review the proposed route, and through an “internal scoping” process with the applicant and the consultant; assess opportunities and constraints along the proposed route. Alternative routes are identified for consideration during the public scoping period. The BLM conducts public scoping which notifies the public that the BLM is intending to conduct an EIS on the proposed project. The public is encouraged to give their input on the proposed route and reasonable alternatives. Based on technical comments from the agencies combined with public input, adjustments (alternatives and proposed mitigation) are made to address the issues, and a draft EIS is developed.

How is the public involved in route development?
The public is invited to be involved at all steps of the EIS process. The public is encouraged to provide comments until a final decision is made. There are also specific public comment periods – set time periods that are identified and publicized so that the public is aware of documents and proposals for review. It is especially helpful for the BLM to receive comments that identify a specific concern or situation and provide possible solutions.

How was the route developed for the Gateway South transmission line project?
Three major criteria were initially used by the proponent to develop initial routing alternatives for consideration. The first siting criteria was to follow existing linear disturbances; the second criteria was to follow the designated National West-wide Energy Corridor or other locally designated corridors. These include corridors designated in resource management plans as well as existing corridors comprised of roadways, pipeline routes, or other transmission lines. The last siting criteria was green field development where neither of these corridors exist. The BLM and our cooperating agencies reviewed the initial proposed routes from the company and requested initial revisions to facilitate resource concerns and constraints.

How will the public be notified and involved in the Gateway South Transmission line project?

  • A Federal Register notice was published on April 1, 2011, announcing the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the project.
  • A 90-day public scoping period began after the Federal Register notice was published.
  • Press releases will be sent to local and regional newspaper, radio stations and television stations Colorado, Utah and Wyoming announcing the proposed project at least 15 days prior to a scoping meeting in a community.
  • Legal notices or advertisements will be purchased by the applicant in local newspapers in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming announcing the public scoping period on the proposed project at least 15 days prior to a scoping meeting in a community.
  • Approximately 16,000 individual scoping invitations will be sent to state and local governments, interest groups and landowners along the transmission line route announcing the public scoping period on the proposed project.
  • A project website has been launched: www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/hdd/gateway_south.html

What is the final environmental impact statement (FEIS)?
Comments and information submitted during the DEIS comment period may result in new alternatives to be analyzed or adjustments to the route. It is possible that portions of the DEIS analysis that are no longer feasible or no longer apply will be dropped or discarded. After a preferred alternative is identified and the final environmental impact statement is written, there is another public comment period before a decision is rendered. Based on these public comments, adjustments can still be made to the EIS before a decision is made. That decision is called the Record of Decision.

Why are there no alternatives identified along some areas?
Some areas do not have identified alternatives because they fall in the designated National West-wide Energy Corridor, they fall in a linear corridor designated in a BLM resource management plan, or they follow existing facilities not in designated corridors where minimal environmental conflicts exist and no other reasonable alternatives were identified in scoping.

The project is generally proposed as a public benefit. Why isn’t the entire project placed on public land?
Approximately half of the route is currently proposed to be located on federal land. There are areas along the span of the transmission line where there is no public land. Because the line spans such a long distance, private land will need to be crossed. However, every effort is being made to consider all affects of the route to both public and private land values.

Why isn’t the entire project located in the National West-wide Energy Corridor?
Depending on the specific location, some environmental conflicts were discovered in the national corridor that required an adjustment to the placement of the line. There are also other existing transmission lines and pipelines in some areas of the corridor that required an adjustment to the placement of this transmission line to assure reliability of the transmission system.

Will there be route changes because of public input?
Because public comment will be sought through the public scoping process, there may be a number of route changes as well as additional proposed routes to include in the analysis for the environmental impact statement. The BLM and the project applicant will meet with numerous landowners, federal, state and local governments in order to work out solutions to siting concerns.

Can the lines be buried?
Although burying lines may solve the problem of the visual impacts, burying will increase the amount of ground disturbance. Each line would be buried inside of a conduit to protect the lines and provide a means to cool the temperature of the lines. In the case of an alternating current (AC) line, this would mean that three adjacent linear burial zones would need to be created. In the case of a direct current (DC) line, two adjacent linear burial zones would need to be created. Finally, the cost of burying these lines is not economically feasible, approaching ten times the normal rate. These charges have to be approved by public utility commissions before they can be passed on to utility customers.

Why can’t electricity be handled like other sources of energy?
Electricity is different than other energy because it cannot be stored and must be used at the exact moment it is generated. Current battery technology is not capable of storing the large amounts of energy that make up a bulk electric system. Therefore, a grid of transmission lines is necessary in order to ensure that all American’s electricity needs are served.

What is the schedule for the Gateway South Environmental Impact Statement?
A Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement was published in the Federal Register on April 1, 2011, starting the scoping period. Public scoping meetings will be held from May 10 to June 3, 2011, in various communities along the proposed routes, and will help define the route, and alternate routes, for the transmission line project. A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) will be prepared after gathering all of the information from public scoping, and the release of the DEIS will open a public comment period. The public will be encouraged to review the document and make comments for further analysis. Incorporating those comments and the affiliated analysis will be the basis of the final environmental impact statement and publication of the Notice of Availability of the EIS in the Federal Register. Finally, a Record of Decision will be signed and a Right-of-way Grant will be issued.



Contact: Tamara Gertsch, National Project Manager

Phone: 307-775-6115  |  Email: GatewaySouth_WYMail@blm.gov

Mail: Energy Gateway South Project  |  PO Box 21150  |  Cheyenne WY  82003