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LETTER: Governors seek substantive partnership in Section 368 energy corridor designation process

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May 17, 2016

Neil Kornze, Director
Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Department of the Interior
Mailstop 2134 LM
1849 C Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240

Thomas Tidwell, Chief
United States Forest Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Director Kornze and Chief Tidwell,

We write to inquire about energy corridor designations mandated by Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). (1) Department of Energy (DOE) representatives recently met with Western Governors’ Association (WGA) staff. They reported that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (FS), with technical input from DOE, will be responsible for designation and revision of Section 368 energy corridors and for the incorporation of energy corridors into land use plans.

Reliable electricity transmission is critically important. Establishing an energy transmission infrastructure system that facilitates the development of necessary infrastructure – while maintaining wildlife, natural resources and environmental protection – represents a key energy policy priority for Western Governors (Policy Resolution 2013-09 Energy Transmission). The complex mix of federal, state, and private lands in the west require state and federal cooperation on matters which affect large-scale project development.

Status Update and State Consultation

Western Governors desire to work with the Administration on the Section 368 corridor designation process. (2) This cooperation is necessary to address states’ land use requirements, growth priorities, and long-term energy planning needs.

Moreover, the designation process is central to a cooperative effort. (WGA Resolution 2014-09, Respecting State Authority and Expertise, federal consultation with Governors and state agencies should be substantive and ongoing).

The 2012 settlement of The Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al. (Wilderness Society) (3) calls for transparency and engagement by states in the process for designating energy corridors. As part of the Wilderness Society settlement, BLM and FS agreed to undertake an initial Section 368 Corridor Study and commence regional periodic reviews. Public comments were solicited in March 2014 through a Request for Information (RFI). (4) Both the Corridor Study and the first regional periodic review are long-delayed now. The July 2015, White House report, Modernizing Our Electric Transmission Infrastructure and Driving the Development of Clean Energy, states:

The [BLM] and [FS] very recently began collecting information for an August kick-off of the first regional review of energy corridors established in response to Section 368(a) of [EPAct]. This first regional review is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2016, subject to the availability of appropriated funds.

This gives rise to the questions:

  • Has the Section 368 Corridor Study been completed? If not, what is the revised timeline for study completion?
  • BLM and FS have identified six regions for periodic review with Region 1 (5) prioritized for initial review. Review of the other five regions will follow. What is the timeline for review of the six regions? What is the plan for consultation with Western Governors and state agencies?
  • On February 2, 2016, DOE published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled, Coordination of Federal Authorizations for Electric Transmission Facilities, which proposes a simplified Integrated Inter-Agency Pre-application (IIP) Process for inter-jurisdictional engagement. (6) How will Section 368 energy corridor designation and the IIP Process be integrated with one another?
  • How will corridor revisions incorporate the mitigation policies and land management principles from Secretarial Order 3330 (7) and the Presidential Memorandum, Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment (8) which states, that “large-scale plans and analysis should inform the identification of areas where development may be most appropriate” and directs federal land management agencies to “identify, and make public, locations on Federal land of authorized impacts and their associated mitigation projects.”
  • How will review of Section 368 corridors be affected by changes to BLM’s resource management planning design process contemplated in BLM’s Planning 2.0 Initiative? (9)

We look forward to your answers to these questions and to a substantive partnership in this process.

Respectfully,

Matthew H. Mead
Governor of Wyoming
Chairman, WGA

Steve Bullock
Governor of Montana
Vice Chair, WGA

(1) Public Law 109 (Aug. 8, 2005).
(2) June 30, 2013, WGA letter and October 4, 2013, WGA letter, each to the White House Council on Environmental Quality regarding re-designation of corridors required by Section 368 of EPAct.
(3) Settlement Agreement In re: The Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 3:09-cv-03048 JW (N.D. Cal. July 9, 2012).
(4) 79 FR 17567.
(5) Nevada, Arizona, California.
(6) 81 FR 5383.
(7) Secretarial Order No. 3330: Improving Mitigation Policies and Practices of the Department of Interior, signed Oct.31, 2013.
(8) Presidential Memorandum: Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment, released Nov. 3, 2015.
(9) 81 FR 9673.

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