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Groups Criticize Energy Corridors

Nov 19, 2007 - Las Vegas Review

A federal plan for energy corridors running through Nevada and other Western states drew fire from environmental groups Thursday.

Designation of the rights of way would make it more likely that pipelines, electrical lines and associated structures would infringe on sensitive environmental areas, said Nada Culver, legal counsel for the Wilderness Society. For instance in Nevada, Culver said, "There are a number of corridors running adjacent to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and there is about a half-mile-wide corridor that crosses through the Lake Mead (National Recreation) Area for about five miles."

Environmental groups criticized the energy routes in a news conference on Thursday. They were reacting to a draft environmental impact statement released last week by the Department of Energy and the Bureau of Land Management.

The government plans to designate about 6,000 miles of rights of way across Western states to facilitate the placement of energy infrastructure.

Kevin Kolevar, a DOE assistant secretary, said in a news release that the corridors were designed to have a small impact but are necessary to meet future energy needs.

Federal officials said the intent was to skirt national parks, wilderness and wilderness study areas, and refuges.

But the environmentalists said the plan lacks specific protections. They said they were concerned in cases where the corridors might come within a mile of sensitive areas.

In Nevada, the corridors run north and south along the western and eastern segments of the state, and also across Northern Nevada including near Elko and Reno.

John Wallin, director of the Nevada Wilderness Project, said the corridor's proximity to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge was of particular concern.

"It is the largest wildlife refuge outside of Alaska," he said.

Jonathan Schrader, a spokesman for the Energy Department, said as much as 60 percent of the corridors nationally are already in place and in use.

"They already have transmission lines in them or have already been designated," Schrader said.

"Keep in mind that the new (routes) are just proposed corridors," Schrader said. "Any time a utility company calls for building something, they still need to go through routine (Environmental Protection Agency) processes."

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