Casey Announces Hold on FERC Nominee over Power Corridor

WASHINGTON, DC-In a speech today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) discussed his recent actions to oppose a planned power corridor that would affect 52 out of 67 Pennsylvania counties.  He announced a legislative hold to block the nomination of a key figure involved with developing the corridor.  And he discussed an amendment he will offer to the Farm Bill to prohibit the use of eminent domain in placing electric transmission towers on farmland.

“This is not only a major public policy issue for the state of Pennsylvania but also a fundamental issue of fairness and the proper role of Government,” said Senator Casey. “If the federal government and the Department of Energy or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or anyone else in this town wants to fight about this, we are ready to fight. We will fight.”

Yesterday, Senator Casey sent a letter to Joseph Kelliher informing him that he was placing a hold on his nomination.  Following the Department of Energy’s declaration of three-quarters of Pennsylvania counties as part of the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would ultimately have authority to determine the location of transmission towers within the corridor.  Kelliher currently serves as the Chairman of FERC. 

Included are Senator Casey’s full remarks from his speech:

“Mr. President, I rise today to address not only a major public policy issue for the State of Pennsylvania, but also a fundamental issue of fairness and the proper role of government, which I think will have an impact on the country as a whole.

Recently, the United States Department of Energy designated 52 out of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, as part of a power transmission corridor more formally known as the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. This means the U.S. Government will be able to turn three-quarters of the State of Pennsylvania into a superhighway of transmission towers.  Their authority to designate this corridor was granted in the energy bill passed in 2005. This could place the lines on farmlands through neighborhoods, through someone's backyard, and, for example, through a beautiful vineyard like the one I saw most recently in Green County in the furthest Southwestern corner of Pennsylvania so, virtually, anywhere in the Commonwealth and anywhere in the country.

The Department earlier this year had a public comment period where I and other public officials and, most importantly, my constituents spoke out loudly in opposition to the draft corridor plan. That draft plan is virtually identical to the final plan. Let me give you a sense of what we're talking about. This is a map which depicts the draft Mid-Atlantic and Southwest Area National Corridors. There are people in Washington, for years, talking about creating opportunities for more power. This is a national priority, they say. Yet, you can see just by the dotted areas that there are lots of states in the Northeast that will be impacted: obviously, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and out West, the furthest reaches of the Southwest of our country, principally in the state of California. So, for all of the talk about a national priority there's very little that impacts the middle of our country.

Now, I sent letters, as Senator Specter did, to the Department of Energy, but so far I'm not happy to report the Department of Energy has ignored my constituents. I think this is an outrage for a government bureaucracy to ignore the people they're supposed to serve. They pay their salaries. Those taxpayers pay their salaries. The least this Department should do is respond not just in a timely way but to respond completely. But we haven't seen that yet. Last week I met with an Assistant Secretary of Energy to discuss my opposition to the corridor presently drafted. I sent letters to the Energy of Secretary, most recently in early October, and we are still waiting for a response to that, a letter signed by both Senator Specter and me. I’m still waiting for a response. I know people get busy, but it is time to respond to that letter.

We are also waiting for the Secretary to respond to my request for a meeting. We're getting a little resistance there, as well. So, while I'm waiting for these responses from the letters I sent, I want to put him on notice, I want to put the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which we call FERC, I want to put FERC on notice and I want to put the United States Senate on notice that I have grave concerns -- as lots of people in Pennsylvania have grave concerns -- about this transmission corridor as presently designed or drafted. I'm outraged by how my constituents have been treated so far in this process. I would argue they've been ignored in this process.

So, I intend to use every means at my disposal to prevent the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor from moving forward until Pennsylvania is, at a minimum, treated equitably. So, I intend to place a hold on the re-nomination of Joseph Kelliher, Chairman of the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission. I will place a hold on his re-nomination, and I will introduce an amendment tomorrow in connection to the Farm Bill to prevent the use of eminent domain to take farmland for part of this power transmission corridor.

One more chart before we conclude. The second chart here depicts the number of counties affected in the Northeast corner of the United States. I'll speak just to Pennsylvania for today. 52 out of those 67 counties. Basically, what the federal

Government has told us, in essence -- which is what I derive from their failure to respond to the state of Pennsylvania -- there's going to be a super highway of power lines across Pennsylvania and there's nothing anyone can do. The federal government is going to take over this effort and put those lines across the State of Pennsylvania. Well, I got news for them. Pennsylvania is full of a lot of people who are concerned about this -- whether they're in small town or urban areas and, as we will speak to tomorrow, in rural areas in Pennsylvania, farm communities. Most of those counties are in rural communities.

If the federal government and the Department of Energy or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner or anyone else in this town wants to fight about this, we are ready to fight. We will fight morning, noon, and night until our state the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is treated equitably. Madam President, I yield the floor.”

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