Obama memo sets deadlines for transmission ‘corridors’

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The White House last week set firm deadlines for fast-tracking the construction of new power lines needed to thwart cyberattacks and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable electricity generation by 2020.Obama sent a memo Friday to the secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy and the Interior that laid out a timeline for ensuring existing “corridors” on federal land are being used to push through new power lines.”Our nation’s electric transmission grid is the backbone of our economy, a key factor in future economic growth, and a critical component of our energy security,” Obama wrote. “Modernizing our grid will improve energy reliability and resiliency, allowing us to minimize power outages and manage cyber-security threats.”

Four years ago, the Bush administration established 6,000 miles of corridors in 11 Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Obama called on the secretaries to “strongly encourage” transmission developers to use designated corridors in those areas, unless resource constraints prevent the projects from moving forward.

The agency heads must present a plan for assessing how existing corridors are being used by July 12, according to the memo.

But the memo also shows the White House is intent on using existing authorities to push new projects on federal lands in the East.

Obama’s memo establishes a Sept. 1, 2014, deadline for the agencies to recommend areas for new corridors in “non-Western states.”

One industry source said imposing deadlines sends a strong signal to federal agencies overseeing the construction of new power lines.

“I think it’s a very firm word that the White House is behind this and they want executive branch agencies not to dither,” an industry source said. “Most of your effort is in the West, and there’s a lot less federal land in the East, but there’s still quite a bit, and there may be some opportunities there.”