The Trojan Horse of Electric Power Transmission Line Siting Authority
Lewis & Clark Law School Environmental Law, Vol. 39, 2009
34 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2009 Last revised: 3 Feb 2010
Date Written: February 2, 2010
Reform proposals pending in the U.S. Congress would increase federal and regional power to preempt states in siting transmission lines on order to allow the development of a high-votage transmission grid for renewable resources. This Article recognizes the inadequacy of existing state siting authority over transmission, but takes a skeptical approach to expanding federal siting jurisdiction as a solution to the problem and argues that the over-attention to transmission line siting authority is a bit of a Trojan horse in the climate change debate. Specifically, because it ignores the more difficult issues of how the costs and benefits of transmission are balanced, and how it will be paid for, siting jurisdiction alone will not remove barriers to transmission infrastructure and may present some hidden problems of its own. Legislative focus on enhancing federal authority over transmission lines has confused responsibility for this issue, further delaying federal administrators and regional bodies from taking proactive approaches that they currently possess authority to implement. Further, transmission siting authority reforms can actually undermine climate change goals if it does not consider the full costs and benefits associated with a project. It must also assess how transmission will be priced. Failure to do these things can make transmission siting authority a Trojan horse in the climate change debate - masking fundamental issues that could harm the climate and keeping reformers from focusing on the more serious barriers faced by the large-scale development of renewable resources.
Keywords: Climate change, renewable energy, land use, transmission, siting, federalism
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