NIETCs are another one of the nifty tools the energy industry gifted themselves with in the 2005 EPAct that helped set the stage for their great transmission-building gold rush. The idea was for DOE to do a congestion study every three years and designate NIETCs. FERC was granted transmission siting authority in a designated NIETC, in the event that a state withheld approval for 1 year (as well as a few other situations). They thought they'd set up a system that usurped state siting authority. Combined with a delicious buffet of transmission incentives from which to choose, it created an IOU transmission feeding frenzy.
Unfortunately for them, their game plan was successfully challenged in the courts by environmental groups. In Piedmont Environmental Council v. FERC, the 4th Circuit ruled that denial of a permit by a state wasn't "withholding," and took away FERC's authority to site a line in the event that a permit was denied by a state. And in California Wilderness Coalition v. U.S. Dep’t of Energy, the 9th Circuit vacated the NIETCs that DOE had designated, further obliterating FERC's authority to override state siting decisions by doing away with the corridors upon which FERC's authority rested. Their little scheme has been rendered completely useless.
Never fear though, dear consumer. They're already busy with their next plan of attack. This time, DOE plans to solicit suggestions for NIETCs from utilities for narrow corridors that coincide with the utility's desire to build a certain transmission line. There's an interesting article about their conniving in the Public Utilities Fortnightly snooze-rag.
If there's one over-riding lesson we've all learned from our experiences over the past 3 1/2 years, it's that you've got to keep your eye on these greedy shysters. It's much easier (and a lot less stressful!) to attempt to prevent bad policy than it is to fix it after it happens.
Do you want to get in on the ground floor this time, instead of being rudely awakened by a transmission line dropped in your backyard by a power company routing etch-a-sketch after it's too late to comment? Don't be intimidated. Federal energy policy really isn't that scary and there's plenty of material on the site to use in crafting your own, or your group's, comments.