FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Majority Leader Bill
DeWeese seeks repeal of Federal Energy Act
House resolution argues state vs. federal rights in power line decisions
HARRISBURG, May 11 – In his ongoing efforts to maintain state’s rights versus federal government eminent domain authority, House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese will introduce a resolution opposing the designation of national interest electric transmission corridors in Pennsylvania and asking Congress to repeal or modify portions of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005.
In late April, DeWeese traveled to Washington, D.C. to testify before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Domestic Policy for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is examining sweeping new federal authority to site electric transmission lines throughout the country.
“Section 1221 of the federal Energy Policy Act pre-empts the authority of the Commonwealth to determine future land use policies; a pre-emption that could negatively impact future commercial and residential development and property values in numerous political subdivisions of the Commonwealth,” said DeWeese, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington.
Under the act, the Department of Energy may designate areas of the country as national interest electric transmission corridors. Within these areas, state authority over transmission lines may be pre-empted and new federal eminent domain authority would be available for approved electric utility projects.
“This federal law offers no protections for any nonfederal property falling within a corridor. Therefore, agricultural land preserved under conservation easements, agricultural and forest reserve land preserved under the Clean and Green Program, historic battlefields, historic land and places, school yards, and all commercial and residential private property falling within a national corridor could be subject to taking by the federal government to build new power lines,” DeWeese said.
On April 26, the federal Department of Energy released its proposal for a Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor. Geographically, the Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor designation encompasses all or parts of eight states, including 50 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
The DOE issued a release this week indicating that it would convene a June public meeting in Pittsburgh on the designation. However, the agency has not revealed whether it will hold a meeting in any of the other affected counties in the Commonwealth.
Many agencies of the states, including the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which submitted comments to the Department of Energy before the release of its initial National Electric Transmission Congestion report in August 2006, questioned the methodology and data used by the DOE to determine the extent and nature of transmission congestion and constraints in different regions of the country. Some states also question whether the DOE adequately consulted with the states as required by the law in compiling the report.
The federal law further empowers the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with “backstop” authority to issue permits for the construction or modification of any electric transmission facility in a DOE-designated national interest electric transmission corridor if, among other things, the Public Utility Commission would fail to act on an application to locate and build a proposed transmission line within one-year of filing or one-year after designation as a national interest electric transmission corridor, whichever is later. The FERC could also institute its “backstop” authority if the Public Utility Commission would apply unfavorable conditions to the transmission project. Consequently, an electric utility that holds a FERC-issued permit could exercise eminent domain to condemn and acquire private property to build a proposed transmission line in a DOE-designated NIET corridor, regardless of the findings of the Public Utility Commission.
“I am certain that NIET corridors will have a detrimental impact on the future of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, its people and political subdivisions.
“If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is permitted to use its congressionally conveyed authority to commandeer and usurp the traditional role of states and their administrative agencies to review and approve the location and construction of high voltage transmission lines, Pennsylvania, not unlike every other state, would have no control, no say and no recourse other than expensive litigation over transmission planning, location and construction within its geographic borders. However, there is a remedy: the repeal of section 1221 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005,” DeWeese said.
The majority leader is seeking co-sponsors for his resolution and hopes to have it voted by the full House when the chamber returns to session May 21.
DeWeese became aware of the deficiencies in the federal law when Allegheny Energy proposed the 240-mile, 500 kilovolt high voltage Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line through southwestern Pennsylvania, including 40 miles in DeWeese’s district.
In April, DeWeese sent letters enlisting support against the power line to U.S. Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. and Arlen Specter and U.S. Rep. John Murtha. These letters follow February correspondence that DeWeese wrote to Wendell Holland, chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, protesting the power line.
Several hundred residents of southwestern Pennsylvania already have signed the online petition DeWeese is sponsoring in conjunction with other groups dedicated to stopping the TrAIL. It can be found on his Web site at www.pahouse.com/DeWeese.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Two maps to help comprehend the extent of the Mid-Atlantic corridor designations are available on DeWeese’s Web site www.pahouse.com/deweese. One map illustrates the states and counties included in the Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor designation. The other map shows the proposed routes under consideration for designation as national interest electric transmission corridors.