More Power to Senator Reid

By February 24, 2009Energy

From The Houston Chronicle, reporting on the National Clean Energy Project gathering held Monday in Washington, “Federal control urged over revamp of electrical grid.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would propose giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to trump states in deciding where to place new power lines as part of a bid to boost electrical transmission capacity nationwide.

Current rules require approval from local, state and federal agencies before new transmission systems are installed. States generally have the final say about where new transmission lines go, an authority that state utility regulators have been reluctant to relinquish.

Under Reid’s proposal, states in regions with huge renewable energy potential would have time to come up with their own plans for building new transmission capacity, but if they moved too slowly, FERC could get involved.

“We must … focus our energy and investments on planning and siting new transmission and breaking down barriers to a truly national approach,” Reid said.

Wasn’t the 2005 Energy Policy Act supposed to achieve that same end? Apparently more effort in that direction is indeed necessary, as witness last week’s ruling concerning siting of transmission lines in Virginia. From Leesburg Today, “States Win As Appeals Court Narrows Federal Power Line Rules“:

The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Richmond Wednesday has energized opponents of plans for a number of high voltage transmission lines across the state.

The ruling, on a case brought by the Piedmont Environmental Council and multiple states against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would curtail FERC’s power to intervene in transmission line decisions in the state.

In its decision written by Judge Michael, the court reversed what it called FERC’s “expansive interpretation” of the language of Section 216 in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that granted the federal commission authority to supercede a decision by state regulators to withhold permission to build lines within designated National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors for more than one year.

The court ruled that while the federal agency could act if a state permit review is delayed, the statue does not permit, as FERC claimed, the authority to overturn a denial of an application.

For a good example of arguments from the anti-energy, anti-transmission, see this op-ed from a woman who fought transmission lines necessary to bring solar-generated electricity to San Diego, “EDITORIAL: CALL ME A SORE LOSER– HOW YOU CAN HELP FIGHT POWERLINK“:

As a Campo property owner and native San Diegan I just can’t fathom how 120
miles of transmission lines with 150 ft. high steel towers buzzing and crackling their way into San Diego fits with “America’s Finest City” image….[snip]

The fact is that few of us will be able to determine what type of energy is being transmitted across these unnecessary transmission lines. Is it wind, solar, geothermal, or fossil fuel? You tell me. After the so-called “energy crisis” a few years back and now the deceitful attempts to persuade the public that Sunrise Powerlink is a good thing for San Diego,will you ever trust San Diego Gas & Electric again? Is this line about renewable energy or SDG&E’s bottom line?

It’s an aesthetic, emotional, viscerally anti-business and highly individual argument — lots of “I” — which doesn’t really help keep the lights on in San Diego.

The writer is correct in observing that transmission lines are transmission lines, carrying electricity generated from any source. That’s why Senator Reid’s comments are so welcome. It’s fair to say he’s not a fan of coal power, and yet that opposition is not preventing his support for a national, rational energy transmission grid.


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