The Power Line has the scoop on FERC's new plan to utilize DOE's failed NIETC designation power to usurp the authority of state Public Service Commissions to site new transmission lines.  This means that the power companies will be back to playing the FERC backstop authority joker card in state approval processes in an attempt to force state authorities to approve applications for new transmission projects.

Here's a link to FERC's plan.

The NIETCs (National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors) were a product of the industry-designed 2005 EPAct that was supposed to ease opposition to new transmission projects.  The DOE was tasked with developing "congestion" corridors that were creating a supposed transmission emergency necessitating new projects to ensure reliability and alleviate "congestion."  Under the original plan, a project sited in one of these corridors could not be denied by a state, or authority to site the line and grant the power of eminent domain to the power company would be given to FERC, removing the project from state authority and control.  In the PATH case, the power companies continually played this joker card on the state commissions as a way to make the states go along with numerous PATH-requested delays, lest they lose any control of siting.

However, the language of the EPAct only gave FERC backstop authority in the event that a state failed to make a decision within one year of application.  It did not give FERC backstop authority in the event that a transmission application was denied within one year.  This is a fine example of the industry trying to pervert existing law to suit their purposes.  The Piedmont Environmental Council took them on at the U.S. 4th Circuit in 2009, and won.

In February of this year, the U.S. 9th Circuit vacated the NIETCs that DOE had created and remanded the case back to DOE for another "congestion" study.  This effectively made FERC's backstop authority useless as a tool for PATH, which was sited in one of the vacated corridors.

Now FERC wants to take over designation of NIETCs and thinks they can do it better than DOE did.  They're trying to frame it as a "national security" issue -- just one step above the power company propaganda machine that's been screeching about "brownouts and blackouts" in an attempt to scare the American people into allowing new transmission projects that do nothing but increase corporate shareholder profits.  FERC's mission is to regulate utilities to benefit the interests of consumers.  FERC's getting a little far afield in their conspiracy with the energy corporations to build a "national grid" that the consumers don't want or need and cannot afford.

This is an industry attempt, aided by FERC, to subvert your state's authority to protect your interests.  If you think driving 6 hours to Charleston to defend yourself against eminent domain and the inherent health risks of living in close proximity to transmission lines is burdensome, along with spending your life savings on a lawyer and experts to protect your interests, imagine how much stress and money it's going to cost you to defend yourself at FERC when your state PSC is bound and gagged over in the corner and can't do anything to help you.

FERC is also trying to get control of the NIETCs while state authorities are still spinning and filing requests for rehearing of their recent Order No. 1000 and aren't paying attention to the other shoe that has dropped.  NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners) recently filed their request for rehearing, stating:

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, which had cautioned FERC about preserving states' rights in the proposed rule, argues in its request for rehearing that the order "oversteps FERC's jurisdiction, fails to recognize the states' decision-making authority, and may have the unintended consequence of actually stalling transmission planning and cost allocation."

If they're complaining about Order No. 1000 usurping states' rights... they need to refocus their attention on this issue!

It's all part of the industry's grand scheme to federalize transmission siting and run roughshod over those "NIMBYS", environmental organizations, and state authorities who have been effectively preventing costly, unneeded transmission projects from being built.  If you're a regular blog reader here, you've heard all this before.

Now they've got a plan from FERC to take over transmission siting, not by changing the law, but by manipulating the existing law.  And now it's all about midwest wind so that the environmental organizations that fought the manipulation of law in the past will be mollified into not challenging them this time.  If manipulation of law was wrong last time, it's still wrong this time, no matter the color of the electricity flowing through unneeded transmission lines. 

By eliminating one enemy, the industry is left with only opposition by states and citizens, so polish up your army boots and prepare for battle. 

UPDATE:  Click here to read more about this issue!



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