New Compact Aims to Ease Transmission Line Siting Process

A new transmission line siting compact developed by CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts could be the key for states hoping to spur transmission line growth without the interference of the federal government.

Kansas Rep. Tom Sloan told policymakers in a legislative briefing unveiling the new compact Sunday afternoon that the 2005 Energy Policy Act gave the federal government authority to order construction of high-voltage transmission lines if states don’t approve them.

“That offends many of us who represent the states,” Sloan said. “Also, it specifically says states can band together in an organized compact to address this issue. It pre-empts federal intervention.”

Crady deGolian, director of the compacts center, said the initiative was membership-driven. Sloan and North Dakota Rep. Kim Koppelman separately approached CSG about such a project.

“This wasn’t something that was conceived at our office in Lexington,” said deGolian.

The compact sets timelines for when action must be taken on proposed interstate transmission lines, such as when public hearings and evidentiary hearings must be held. It would only take effect if the line runs through three contiguous states that are all members of the compact.

“Good planning leads to good siting,” said Bill Smith, executive director of the Organization of MISO States. “Good planning makes siting easier.”

Smith said this compact is timely because the energy industry has gone beyond being just a local or state concern.

“The industry is becoming more and more regional in scope of geography as opposed to the utility-by-utility islands throughout the country,” he said.

“The goal of this whole process was to address the need for a more robust and resilient national electric grid system and to do it in a collaborative manner in which state issues and processes are protected,” Sloan said. “We’re all familiar with the nature of public hearings, where you have folks come in and express reservations, ideas and concerns. What I’ve also seen is it took 12 years to build 14 miles of transmission lines in one instance, and that doesn’t serve anybody’s interest.”

The compact language is now in final form and is ready to be introduced in states beginning in the 2013 session.