The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently released a study that provides a foundation for upcoming regional reviews of energy corridors on western public lands to assess the need for revisions and provide greater public input regarding areas that may be well suited for transmission siting. The regional reviews will begin with priority corridors in southern California, southern Nevada and western Arizona, and provide more opportunities for collaboration with the public and Federal, Tribal, state and local governmental stakeholders.
The study examines whether the energy corridors established under Section 368(a) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 are achieving their purpose to promote environmentally responsible corridor-siting decisions and to reduce the proliferation of dispersed rights-of-way crossing Federal lands. With the aim of encouraging more efficient and effective use of the corridors, the study establishes baseline data and presents opportunities and challenges for further consideration during the periodic regional reviews that BLM and USFS will conduct.
The corridors address a national concern by fostering long-term, systematic planning for energy transport development in the West; providing industry with a coordinated and consistent interagency permitting process; and establishing practicable measures to avoid or minimize environmental harm from future development within the corridors. Section 368(a) directed several federal agencies to designate corridors on federal lands in the 11 contiguous western states to provide linear pathways for siting oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines and high voltage transmission and distribution facilities. The contiguous states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The BLM, USFS, and DOE, among others, undertook an unprecedented landscape scale effort, including a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, starting in 2006 and completed in 2009, that designated nearly 6,000 miles of corridors, issuing two Records of Decisions and associated land use plan amendments
As required by a 2012 Settlement Agreement that resolved litigation about the corridors identified, the BLM, USFS and DOE established an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explain how the agencies will review the Section 368 (a) corridors on a regional basis. The MOU, signed in June 2013, describes the interagency process for conducting the reviews, the types of information and data to be considered, and the process for incorporating resulting recommendations in BLM and USFS land use plans.
The full-text of the corridor study is available online at: http://corridoreis.anl.gov.