Big win for wildlife and our lands through West-wide Energy Corridor Settlement

A recent settlement protected the views of Arches National Park, home to spectacular vistas like this one of Delicate Arch,  from obstruction by tall electric towers and high-tension wires.

National Park Service

A legal settlement in West-wide energy corridor suit means better protections for sensitive western lands.

A nearly 3 year legal battle over an 11th hour Bush Administration decision to set up a vast network of power lines across the West is now over.

Conservationists, county officials and federal agencies have agreed to revise the “West-wide Energy Corridors” plan in order to facilitate renewable energy and avoid environmentally sensitive areas. The deal prevents a web of pipelines and powerlines from being built across the West and guides development to more appropriate lands that also support clean energy.

The legal agreement, filed in federal court in San Francisco, requires the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Energy to revise a plan for energy corridors in the West that would have allowed energy developers off-the-hook when it comes to environmental review of their impacts. More than a dozen conservation groups joined with The Wilderness Society and a Colorado county to halt this egregious plan through a lawsuit filed in early 2009. 

The West-wide Energy Corridors were planned by the Bush administration, using streamlined environmental reviews under the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The originally proposed 2008 plan would have connected coal and other fossil-fuel power plants to the West’s electric grid while often overlooking areas with solar, wind and geothermal potential. Its web of corridors threatened wildlife habitat, wilderness and national parks.

The legal agreement ensures that places like Arches National Park, known for its famous sandstone arches in Utah’s red rock desert, will be better protected from a huge energy corridor that could have sited transmission lines alongside the park.

The settlement agreement includes:

  • Identifying “no-go corridors” that identify lands developers should stay away from to avoid conflict.
  • Requiring the agencies to periodically review corridors and assess whether to revise, delete or add corridors on a region-by-region basis.
  • Requiring the agencies to reevaluate corridors located in sensitive areas or corridors that would not carry renewable energy.
  • Confirming that environmental review will be required to evaluate specific transmission and pipeline rights-of-way for transmission lines and pipelines.
  • Ensuring the public has a chance to participate in these decisions.

See also:

Fact sheet on West-wide Energy Corridors
Map of “no-go” corridors
Map of Arches National Park “no-go” corridor
Press release
Settlement agreement