The re-evaluation of western transmission corridors offers the opportunity to protect iconic places like the entrance to Arches National Park from inappropriate development.
Photo by Christie, Creative commons
Like guiding wind and solar projects to low-conflict areas, finding the right places for transmission lines is a common sense approach. Federal agencies are on track to make recommendations for improving the “West-wide Energy Corridors” by the summer of 2014.
The year ahead will be an exciting one for the future of renewable energy and transmission on our public lands. The BLM, US Forest Service and Department of Energy are re-evaluating a network of 6,000 miles of “West-wide Energy Corridors” (corridors). These corridors will be used for transporting electricity, as well as oil and gas, in an effort to reduce harm to wildlands and wildlife habitat and support growth of wind and solar projects.
The original corridors designated by the Bush administration in 2009 did not meet these goals. They included areas inappropriate for development, such as the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico and the entrance to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. The 2009 corridors also failed to create pathways to carry renewable energy from projects to cities that need it most.
The Wilderness Society strongly supports a “guided-development” approach to energy and transmission planning and projects, which means being smart from the start of the planning process. We and numerous conservation partners filed a lawsuit challenging the 2009 corridors because they lacked the smart planning that would have kept these corridors away from wildlife and wildlands and helped renewables. In July of 2012, we reached a settlement agreement with the government requiring a re-evaluation of the corridors.
Consistent with the Obama administration’s support for smart renewable energy development, the federal agencies have now seized the opportunity to create a helpful system of corridors. To-date, they have been on schedule with the court orders and have shown a real commitment to improving the corridors.
This summer the agencies published an agreement that details how they will complete their first re-evaluation of the corridors. The Wilderness Society looks forward to providing our input and expertise in the process that will continue over the next year.