Siting of power lines

Many challenges exist to permitting power lines – and letting wind power travel – across state lines and federal lands, but more federal siting authority can help.

Challenges to wind energy and power lines across states

The permitting of high-voltage transmission lines that cross state boundaries, which are the lines often necessary to transport wind energy to buyers, is an extremely difficult and time-consuming process.  Regulators in a single state can effectively veto a multi-state transmission line by refusing to grant the permits needed for permitting if they feel that their state would not receive an adequate share of the benefits. 

This siting problem is compounded by the overlapping patchwork of federal, state, and local regulatory rules that apply to the permitting and construction of transmission projects in many regions of the country.

Challenges to wind energy across federal lands

Permitting across federal lands, which are prevalent in much of the Western United States, adds complexity and time, even with the memorandum of understanding signed by several federal agencies in 2009. 

The White House Council on Environment Quality (CEQ) attempted to bring some additional order to this process by establishing an Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission in 2009.  Information about the projects under review by this team can be found in the Federal Permitting Transmission Tracking System.

While there is federal backstop authority technically on the books, it has been in practice completely ineffective and has been limited by court decisions.

More on the federal role in transmission permitting:

AWEA advocates for robust federal siting authority

AWEA, in our Green Power Superhighways report, and elsewhere, has advocated a more robust federal siting authority comparable to FERC’s authority over siting interstate natural gas pipelines.

Under this vision, the extra-high-voltage facilities defined in regional transmission plans would be subject to FERC approval and permitting. Separate siting approval at the state level would not be required. FERC would act as the lead agency for purposes of coordinating all applicable federal authorizations and environmental reviews with other affected agencies.