Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Presidential Memorandum -- Transforming our Nation's Electric Grid Through Improved Siting, Permitting, and Review

Last Friday, the White House quietly put out a memorandum on transmission.

It’s an interesting memo for governmental bureaucrats.  If I read between the lines, it says, if you want to keep your job, don’t stop powerlines coming through government lands.  If you want pay raises and promotions under the Obama Administration, push through transmission for my friends in the wind industry.  These are my words, not his, but read the memorandum and see what you think.

The Obama Administration has made Rapid Response Transmission Team (RRTT) to help push through a handful of projects on public lands.  Fortunately, none of these pet projects belong to “Clean” Line Energy.  Nevertheless, this is still disturbing.  The government builds a mountain of regulations designed to reduce abuses of private companies on public lands, but the current administration desires to streamline the process for the advancement of a political pet project, wind energy.

The President believes there is a need to create energy right-of-way corridors”…” minimize regulatory conflicts and impacts on environmental and cultural resources, and also address concerns of local communities” and “focus on facilitating renewable energy resources

Another interesting statement from the Executive Office of the President of the United States claims “The Secretary of Energy shall assess and synthesize current research” and put this synthesized information it into reports.  What does it actually mean to “synthesize current research”?  Is that when the global warming scientists make up their own data to support the liberal political argument?

Per President Obama’s direction, a report needs to be produced.  “Where research is available, the Report shall include an assessment of whether investment in co-locating with or upgrading existing transmission facilities, distributed generation, improved energy efficiency, or demand response may play a role in meeting these requirements. In preparing the Report, the Secretary of Energy shall consult with Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, affected industries, environmental and community representatives, transmission planning authorities, and other interested parties.”

“Other Interested Parties”….is that landowners and neighbors?   Because they weren’t otherwise recognized.

The report shall also “provide to the Steering Committee regional corridor assessments, which shall examine the need for additions, deletions, and revisions to the existing energy corridors for the Western States by region.”  It hasn’t been more than a couple years.  When was the Rapid Response Transmission Team created, 2009?  We’re already looking at deletions and revisions.  I would ask the value of such reports when as quick as five years, deletions and revisions need to be made to transmission projects. 

The most disturbing part of President Obama’s memorandum is SECTION 3 and SECTION 4

Sec. 3. Energy Corridors for the Non-Western States. The Secretaries, in collaboration with the Member Agencies, shall continue to analyze where energy corridors on Federal land in States other than those identified as Western States may be necessary to address the recommendations in the Report issued pursuant to subsection (b) of section 1 and the requirements set forth in subsection (a) of section 1, and to expedite the siting, permitting, and review of electric transmission projects on Federal lands in those States. By September 1, 2014, the Secretaries shall provide the Steering Committee with updated recommendations regarding designating energy corridors in those States.
Sec. 4. Improved Transmission Siting, Permitting, and Review Processes. (a) Member Agencies shall develop an integrated, interagency pre-application process for significant onshore electric transmission projects requiring Federal approval. The process shall be designed to: promote predictability in the Federal siting, permitting, and review processes; encourage early engagement, coordination, and collaboration of Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and the public; increase the use of integrated project planning early in the siting, permitting, and review processes; facilitate early identification of issues that could diminish the likelihood that projects will ultimately be permitted; promote early planning for integrated and strategic mitigation plans; expedite siting, permitting, and review processes through a mutual understanding of the needs of all affected Federal agencies and State, local, and tribal governments; and improve environmental and cultural outcomes.

Looks like a plan is to be produced by September 30, 2013 to implement “improve siting, permitting, and review processes for all electric transmission projects, both onshore and offshore, requiring Federal approval” and “facilitate coordination, integration, and harmonization of the siting, permitting, and review processes of Federal, State, local, and tribal governments for transmission projects to reduce the overall regulatory burden while improving environmental and cultural outcomes.

The President’s Rapid Response Transmission Team is primarily for western states, but like many other policies, this memorandum starts in the west.  The policy invariably is moving into the Midwest and to the east.  Perhaps this memorandum will stay applied only to federal lands, but unlike earlier memorandums, this one is specific towards non-western states.  Yes, federal siting is a threat we have to watch closely.

President Obama’s memorandum is another step towards federal siting authority for public and private lands.  Until that point comes, having President Obama ramrod projects through the interior department bypassing regulations and paying millions for "mitigation" isn't the way an elected democracy is supposed to work.  Memorandums from President Obama.  The bureaucrats proceed.  

Then comes the shakedowns and bribes?  The government looks out for their own, but the public is supposed to relent quietly because "clean" wind energy is the best for society.

Finally, the Interior Secretary Salazar says;
"So here's the deal: I want $60 m [million] and I want it now."


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