WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman expressing his objection to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposal to designate a large area of Pennsylvania for transmission lines. The Mid-Atlantic Area National Interest Electric Transmissions Corridor (NIETC) would encompass a large portion of the Commonwealth.
“I request that the Department of Energy not finalize the draft NIETC designation for Pennsylvania,” Casey wrote.
Casey added, “though DOE was required by law to consult with the states, it has disregarded widespread opposition from Pennsylvania.” Casey went on to write, “most importantly, the designation may threaten the historic, scenic and environmental integrity of a significant portion of Pennsylvania.”
In the letter Casey outlined reasons for his objection to Secretary Bodman which include:
- The DOE has disregarded the widespread opposition from state and local government officials.
- The designation of the NIETC would take away the states’ authority over the transmission lines and gives them to the Federal Government.
- The transmission lines cannot be considered a corridor because it includes 50 out of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties.
- The designation lines may threaten the historic, scenic and environmental integrity of a significant portion of Pennsylvania.
Full text of the letter is included:
Dear Mr. Secretary,
I am writing to express my objection to the proposed U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) designation of the Mid-Atlantic Area National Interest Electric Transmissions Corridor (NIETC), which would encompass a large swath of Pennsylvania. My objection to the proposed designation is founded on several concerns.
First, though DOE was required by law to consult with the states, it has disregarded widespread opposition from Pennsylvania. On June 27, 2007, both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly overwhelmingly passed resolutions opposing the NIETC designation, with a Senate Resolution passing unanimously and a House Resolution passing with strong bipartisan support by a vote of 188 to 11. Additionally, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell communicated his clear opposition in a letter to you dated June 8, 2007. Opposition is equally strong among local government officials in Pennsylvania. For example, the Southwest Pennsylvania Commission, an organization representing a 10-county region (the counties of Armstrong, Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Washington, and Westmoreland) opposes the designation. Opposition is not limited to Pennsylvania alone. It is my understanding that the governors of West Virginia, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Virginia have all voiced concerns over the designation. This broad multi-state resistance clearly indicates that Pennsylvania and other states were not adequately consulted.
Second, the designation of the NIETC is both premature and unnecessarily preemptive of states’ authority. It takes decisions regarding siting of transmission lines out of the hands of the states, where it has traditionally been held, and gives them to the federal government. A federal process that circumvents all state and local authority is not necessary, since it has not been shown that state and local governments are failing to site transmission lines necessary for regional electric reliability. Yet the NIETC process is usurping the authority of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and numerous local governments to act in the best interests of its citizens.
Third, the sheer breadth of the designated area - encompassing 50 of the state’s 67 counties - cannot be considered a “corridor.” Indeed, transmission lines could be located virtually anywhere in Pennsylvania. Therefore, there is a serious question whether the designation of an area this wide exceeds the authority of your office under the National Energy Policy Act of 2005. Further, the justification for this wide swath across Pennsylvania has not been demonstrated. Before any such decision is made, an intensive and public study should be taken on what is needed for regional reliability and the specific steps necessary to achieve it. Otherwise, Pennsylvania will be forced to shoulder an undue burden based on the assumption that the region might, perhaps, need additional transmission siting at some time in the future.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the designation may threaten the historic, scenic, and environmental integrity of a significant portion of Pennsylvania. Captured within the designated “corridor” are numerous national and state parks, battlefields and other historic sites, as well as protected open spaces and habitats. The designation undermines our state’s ability to preserve and protect these precious natural and historic assets. This risk is particularly unjustified in Pennsylvania, since it is likely that additional transmission lines would not benefit Pennsylvania consumers, but would instead benefit those in other states who have not developed necessary energy generating resources of their own.
For these reasons, I request that the Department of Energy not finalize the draft NIETC designation for Pennsylvania.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my concerns. Please accept this letter as part of the Public Comments to the draft National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor Designations, Docket No. 2007-OE-01.
Bob Casey Jr.
United States Senator