Protecting The Power Grid

Tuesday, October 2nd 2007, 12:03 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) Thinking of life without the threat of power blackouts? So is the government, and it moved Tuesday to ensure a nonstop flow of electricity by designating large corridors of the Southwest and mid-Atlantic as critical to the nation's energy grid.

Officials briefed on so-called ``national interest electric transmission corridors'' in 10 states described them to The Associated Press and the Energy Department outlined its decision for the finalized power line construction zones to various congressional offices on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

The original proposal will remain largely unchanged, except that one state, Nevada, was dropped from the Southwest corridor. Originally, only one county in Nevada had been included in the corridor.

The finalized mid-Atlantic corridor would run from Virginia and Washington, D.C. north to include most of Maryland, all of New Jersey and Delaware and large sections of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The Southwest corridor is composed of seven counties in southern California and three in Arizona.

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement that the corridors should prompt regional authorities to ``identify solutions and take prompt action'' in order to keep ``energy flowing to all Americans.''

Under the law, the federal government can approve new power transmission towers within the corridors if states and regional groups fail to build such lines.

The corridor designations may increase pressure on state regulators to grant permits to private industry to build new lines. Utilities in many states have long complained that state authorities are reluctant to approve new lines, often because of local opposition.

If state authorities do not approve any construction after a year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the authority to intervene and approve a grid project if the new line is deemed necessary to satisfy national power needs.

In New York, the corridor plan has generated opposition from local community activists, preservationists, and environmentalists fighting a proposed power line running nearly 200 miles from the center of the state toward the more populous suburbs surrounding New York City.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who has lobbied against the construction of that line, called Tuesday's decision ``just ridiculous.''

``They're using two blackouts to try and make an excuse for setting up these transmission lines,'' said Hinchey, D-N.Y. ``We're going to fight them both in Congress and in the courts.''

The two energy corridors finalized Tuesday may not be the last.

A report last year identified several other potential corridors, including sections of New England, the Phoenix-Tucson area in Arizona, the Seattle-Portland area in the Pacific Northwest, and the San Francisco Bay area.