NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Seek to Preempt Feds on Power-line Sitings

August 15, 2001

Uneasy over a proposal in the Bush administration energy plan to put the federal government in charge of siting electric transmission lines, a growing number of state officials want to form regional, multistate authorities to help decide where the lines should be built.

The White House is concerned that states are too likely to side with local opposition to transmission lines. For their part, the states don't want to turn over to federal bureaucrats powers of eminent domain that would allow them to override states' authority to block new power lines.

The proposals for creating regional siting authorities are still in early stages and many details still need to be worked out.

But here is how the movement is shaping up:

  • The National Conference of State Legislatures is proposing that states appoint regional councils that would review power-line proposals and might also recommend alternatives to new lines.
  • The states don't know if they want these councils to be formal boards with full powers to approve transmission-line locations on behalf of states -- or just serve as informal advisers that would recommend steps states individually should take on proposals.
  • Under the states' proposals, federal energy officials would be members of the councils and would have input in decisions.

The second initiative is being undertaken by the Western Governors Association.

  • The association has agreed to have member states consider regional needs and streamline their siting laws to create common procedures.
  • The group is also studying proposals for regional transmission-line councils.

Electricity bottlenecks -- which form where there are not enough transmission lines -- have been blamed for recent price spikes and blackouts in some regions. Many experts say a surge in new power plants under construction will further strain the already-overburdened system, and require new power lines.

Source: Andrew Caffrey, "States Guard Power-Line Rights," Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2001.

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