The DOE is hosting webinars on its 2012 transmission congestion study:

DOE 2012 Transmission Congestion Study Page

The study isn’t released out, even a draft, and the powerpoint isn’t available yet online.  GRRRRRRRR, we need that to have an idea what’s going on… oh, that’s probably why it isn’t there.  Soon, I’ll post it when it appears.

The first webinar was today, just over, and there are two more — just click on linked date to register:

What I’m seeing here from the powerpoint is that congestion is a non-issue.  And what is very clear from the congestion maps for 2009-2011 is that in 2009 there was essentially NO congestion, and it got worse in 2010, and then not so bad in 2011 but still far more than in 2009.  In essence, apparently what they’re doing has made it worse.

They did ask my question, based on the above observation of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 maps, and asked what the explanation was for absence of congestion in 2009:

A: He said that the relatively low level of economic activity was certainly a factor.  Temperatures were more severe in 2010 so that was a factor.  Yes, congestion, in terms of these three graphics, congestion is worse in 2010 than in the other two years, that is generally in the context of a generally declining pattern over a couple of years we’ve been looking at.  Don’t want anyone to get the impression that …. So part of this is that this is a function of scaling also?  Yes…

Uh-huh… right…

And then from slide 22, Preliminary Regional Findings: Midwest:

  • Data indicate on significant, persistent constraints, apart from those related to the development of remote renewable resources
  • Data do not indicate any areas with major reliability problems
  • The economic congestion that is occurring is small in relation to the total cost of wholesale electricity traded in organized spot markets.
  • Inconsistent market designs and practices between RTOS — as distinct from lack of transmission capacity — are a significant impediment to economically beneficial electricity trade.

But hey, we knew that!

Here are the prior “studies” from DOE:

2009 DOE Congestion Study

2006 DOE Congestion Study

And remember, the purpose of this is, in THEIR words, from THEIR site:

DOE’s Congestion Studies may contribute information needed to support the future designation of one or more National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (National Corridors). On the basis of a congestion study, and after reviewing and considering public comments, the Secretary of Energy is authorized but not required to designate related geographic areas as National Corridors. Designation of a National Corridor has two effects:  1) it emphasizes that the Department considers the particular congestion problem to which the corridor pertains to be sufficiently acute to merit federal concern; and 2) it enables the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to exercise “backstop” authority (under conditions specified in the Federal Power Act) to approve the siting of transmission facilities within the area of the corridor. In particular, the Commission may exercise its jurisdiction if a state agency has “withheld approval” for more than one year of an application to site a transmission facility within the corridor.

But wait, even they admitted in today’s Webinar that the courts have invalidated the designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors both generally and specifically:

So we’re doing this … why???

It’s all about market, it has nothing to do with electric reliability, and billions are being spent to address a problem that does not exist and which is illegal to implement.  WRONG?  Prove it, please…

Aside from unprecedented corporate toadyism?  Bowing to corporate greed at public expense?  Methinks it means that the feds are stomping on states’ rights, and the states will fiercely fight to preserve their authority.   Despite assurances by DOE’s Lauren Azar that they won’t be doing anything they already can’t do, I’m beyond skeptical.

The feds will have one big fight on their hands, a la the fight about states’ rights, whether for consultation on NEITC transmission or their right to deny transmission permits under the NIETC regs:

NIETC designation of corridors tossed out by 9th Circuit Court!!

Denial is NOT withholding… Piedmont v. FERC

Obama’s transmission push is ostensibly based on a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by federal agencies, note that it is about “federal lands.”

Memorandum of Understanding – 2009

CLICK HERE for the page that claims they’ll “expanding the scope of activity beyond federal lands.”  How long before they change that sentence?!?!

For lots of info about this from a more easterly perspective check here:

The Power Line: A View from Calhoun County

Here’s what it could mean in practice – a $60 million pay-out to allow the line to go through:

Obama Administration Draws Criticism For Fast-Tracking Transmission Line Project Through National Park Units

Submitted by Kurt Repanshek on October 10, 2011 – 1:41am

A decision by the Obama Administration to fast-track seven power transmission line projects, including one through several units of the National Park System, has drawn condemnation from conservation groups.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the fast-tracking shows the administration’s commitment to developing “the kind of critical infrastructure we should be working together to advance in order to create jobs and move our nation toward energy independence.”

But the secretary seems tone-deaf to groups that oppose the transmission project that would run across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Middle Delaware National Scenic River.

“The Obama Administration has failed to protect three popular national park sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania with today’s decision to include the controversial Susquehanna-Roseland power line project on its list of fast-tracked transmission projects,” said Bryan Faehner, the National Parks Conservation Association’s associate director for park uses.

“Susquehanna-Roseland proposes to build massive 200-foot towers and power lines across the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, the Middle Delaware National Scenic River, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Delaware Water Gap alone enjoys more than five million visitors annually – most of which come from nearby urban areas – seeking the park’s inspiring views and outstanding recreational opportunities,” he added.

“Building massive power lines across these parks will harm the very resources they were designated to protect. This development can only harm visitors’ experience to the parks and puts economic benefits to local communities at risk. Unlike other proposals mentioned on the administration’s list, the Susquehanna-Roseland power line proposal would not help bring renewable energy sources on-line. Instead, it would transmit electricity produced by dirty coal-fired power plants.”

Last month Delaware Water Gap officials announced that a new alternative developed by the applicants has been added to their environmental analysis of the project, alternative 2b. Alternative 2b would be built within the existing right-of-way of the applicants’ original proposal, alternative 2.

“Under alternative 2b, the applicants would not request any additional ROW. They have stated they can safely operate the new line within the existing ROW, which has some sections 100 feet in width,” the NRA officials said at the time. “Construction would still require additional clearing for access roads and other features.”

The administration’s announcement last week to fast-track the project also was criticized by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which said the decision “is a move to bypass proper environmental review designed to protect one of the most scenic areas of the entire national park system.”

“We do not object to fast-tracking projects as long as political appointees follow the laws protecting parks and the environment–but that hasn’t happened here,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a press statement. “Using jobs as a pretext is misplaced. More jobs can be created by protecting parks than by trashing them.”

PEER contends that Secretary Salazar, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and other Interior officials have met repeatedly with project proponents, PPL Electric Utilities of Allentown, Pennsylvania and Public Service Electric and Gas Company of Newark, New Jersey, and have already approved a route for a new power line that will cut across the Delaware Water Gap NRA and the Appalachian Trail.

As part of the deal, PEER said the draft EIS will not consider at least two alternatives that would lessen impacts to the park’s scenery but will include at least one alternative (2B) demanded by the companies that is untenable from a safety perspective. The secretary and the director have unofficially committed to the companies that the NPS will select Alternative 2, the alternative preferred by the companies but which is the most damaging to the resources and scenery of the parks, PEER argued. In return, the companies have reportedly agreed to pay $60 million for land acquisition and administration inside and near the NRA.

“This is not ‘fast track,’ it is a short circuit in which political appointees are putting their thumbs on the scale to skew the review process,” Mr. Ruch added. “It is one thing to select an alternative after the conclusion of the NEPA process, but is something else to decide on the alternative before public comment has even begun.”

© Copyright 2011 National Park Advocates, LLC.




A victory for states’ rights, for state decision-making authority and jurisdiction over transmission lines.  The National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor designation has been horrifying to many of us because the talk on the street was that the rules allowed transfer to FERC where a state was “withholding” granting a permit.  That was being interpreted as broadly as a state denial — that if a state reasonably denied a permit for transmission, the applicant could then take it to FERC and get it rammed through.  So it went to court…



Like wow…

Piedmont v. FERC 4th Circuit Decision

It’s printing now, and I’ll find some choice snippets.  This is such a relief, but I doubt the utilities will let this go unchallenged — onward and upward!