Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Court Limits FERC Power To Override States on Power Lines

The Center supports increasing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's power to override state decisions on transmission lines when it is in the national interest. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, issued a ruling on February 18th that limits the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's power to override state decisions on transmission lines. The ruling was related to a proposed $2.1 billion, 190-mile high-voltage power line in upstate New York. Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) opponents feel the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) line is not needed and would adversely affect communities and the environment.

NYRI wants to build a 1,200-megawatt line from the Utica area south through seven upstate New York counties to bring power to the New York City area. The Department of Energy has designated the proposed power line route as one of two "national interest energy transmission corridors" where Washington officials can approve new transmission lines over the objections of local and state authorities in certain circumstances. Under the court ruling, FERC would not have jurisdiction if the state denies the project within one year of filing of the application with the state. But if the state denies it after one year has expired, FERC would have jurisdiction. NYRI claims the application was filed with the state one year ago, which means the court ruling will have no bearing on NYRI's ability to seek FERC intervention if the state denies the application. The state Public Service Commission, however, lists the filing date as Aug. 8, 2008, because that's when the application was accepted as complete by the agency. That means FERC would not be able to intervene unless the PSC has failed to issue a decision by Aug. 8, 2009.

An administrative law judge will hold hearings from March 16 to April 16 and later render a decision that the commission could accept or reject. The commission hasn't set a timetable for action. (Newsday.com)

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