by Richard W. Caperton
Raise your hand if you know who permits transmission lines.
This should be easy, right? It’s the Department of Energy. And the Department of the Interior. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (At this point, you’re out of hands to raise.) And the Department of Agriculture. And the Environmental Protection Agency. And tribes, states, counties, and cities.
The truth is, it’s not easy to permit a transmission line. It’s a cumbersome, laborious process that involves working with multiple agencies at multiple levels of government, all of which have an important role to play.
Even though it’s difficult, we can’t just give up the fight: we need to build more properly-sited transmission to carry additional clean energy and to reduce blackouts that harm our economy.
Yesterday, nine federal entities announced seven new transmission lines that will be pilot projects for a new permitting process. By coordinating schedules and processes, making work with Tribal governments more consistent, and reducing conflicts across agencies, this new process will reduce the permitting time for critical transmission investments.
It’s important to remember, too, that transmission lines don’t just appear out of thin air. Transmission lines are massive construction projects that will employ thousands of people in good jobs. These seven lines are expected to create more than 10,000 jobs across twelve states.
The announcement for this exciting new project had reactions from across government. Here are a few quotes:
“Transmission is a vital component of our nation’s energy portfolio, and these seven lines, when completed, will serve as important links across our country to increase our power grid’s capacity and reliability,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This is the kind of critical infrastructure we should be working together to advance in order to create jobs and move our nation toward energy independence.”
“To compete in the global economy, we need a modern electricity grid,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “An upgraded electricity grid will give consumers choices while promoting energy savings, increasing energy efficiency, and fostering the growth of renewable energy resources.”
“USDA’s collaboration with other agencies to build electric transmission will help to meet our country’s electric needs in the 21st century,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom ] Vilsack said. “These infrastructure projects will also create jobs and opportunities that will strengthen our economy to benefit households and businesses throughout the country.”
“These projects will put Americans to work building the electricity grid of the future – one that allows for more electric vehicles on the road and homes and businesses powered by renewable energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. “This is yet another step forward in our efforts to build a 21st century energy sector in America that is cleaner, healthier and more sustainable.”
These pilot projects should help teach the government valuable lessons in coordinating their efforts. With any luck, future transmission developers won’t have to deal with quite as challenging a process as they do now.
Richard Caperton is a senior policy analyst on the energy team at the Center for American Progress