Groups To Sue US DOE Over
Nearly a dozen environmental groups
will sue the U.S. Department of Energy next week
to stop development of national transmission corridors,
an official at one of the organizations said Wednesday.
The federal government in October
declared large swaths of the Southwest and mid-Atlantic
regions as critical to the U.S. energy grid, saying
the corridors are vital to reduce critically congested
areas where transmission is needed to meet electricity
demand and prevent power crises.
The department at the time said the
federal right of eminent domain would counter a
"not-in-my-backyard" syndrome that many in the industry
believe has obstructed development of needed new
But the National Wildlife Federation
and other groups, including the Center for Biological
Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Natural Lands
Trust, will file lawsuits in two federal district
courts next week - one in the District of Columbia
and the other in California - alleging the corridors
are illegal under the National Environmental Policy
Act and the Endangered Species Act.
"We're hoping the court will force
the Department of Energy to completely halt any
work in the corridors," said an official at one
of the groups who requested anonymity because the
suit hadn't been formally announced.
Julie Ruggiero, spokeswoman for the
DoE, said companies applying to the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission - which approves transmission
proposals - " would still have to provide and follow
all the necessary legal and environmental regulations."
"Designation of corridors...in and
of itself has no environmental impact, but instead
identifies a problem and shines a spotlight on areas
of the country that are experiencing or could experience
interruptions in power supply," Ruggiero said.
The government in October announced
two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors,
which encompass all or part of 10 states.
It is the first use of a new federal
power to approve construction of electric lines
in some places where state officials have stymied
them. Some lawmakers and community groups argue
the government corridors wrongly expand the potential
use of eminent domain power.
The mid-Atlantic power corridor runs
from Virginia and Washington north to include most
of Maryland, all of New Jersey and Delaware and
large sections of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and
West Virginia. The Southwest corridor is composed
of seven counties in southern California and three
Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act,
the federal government can approve new power transmission
towers within the corridors if states and regional
groups fail to build such lines. The law was passed
partly in response to the 2003 blackout that crippled
much of the Northeast.
The corridor designations may increase
pressure on state regulators to grant permits to
private industry to build new lines, as power companies
have argued states have been slow to approve new
lines under pressure from local opposition.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
may intervene and approve a grid project if the
new line is deemed necessary to satisfy national
power needs if state authorities don't approve any
construction after a year. Such approvals could,
in theory, include the use of eminent domain law
to compel private owners to sell their property.
"Designation of corridors is critical
because it encourages stakeholders to look at electricity
generation from a regional and national perspective,
identify solutions, and take prompt action," the
DoE's Ruggiero said.
-By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires;