The Final Programmatic EIS (PEIS) for the Designation of Energy Corridors on Federal Lands in 11 Western States (DOE/EIS-0386) (West-Wide Energy Corridors PEIS) was issued on November 28, 2008 (73 FR 72477). DOE and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Department of the Interior, were co-lead agencies together with 13 cooperating and consulting agencies.
Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior to take a series of steps to designate energy transport corridors on Federal lands. The agencies were also required to perform environmental reviews and incorporate the designated corridors into the relevant agency land use, resources management, or equivalent plans (LLQR, December 2007 , page 12).
The Final PEIS analyzes a No Action Alternative and the Proposed Action Alternative, which is also the preferred alternative, under which the agencies would designate and incorporate Federal energy corridors through amendment of relevant land use plans.
Public Comments Alter Routes, Operating Procedures
Approximately 14,000 individuals and organizations submitted over 3,500 substantive comments on the Draft PEIS during a 97-day public comment period that ended on February 14, 2008. Public hearings were conducted in all 11 western states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming), the Navajo Reservation, and Washington, DC. Comments, including those resulting from a form-letter campaign, were received from across the United States and from several other countries.
The agencies reviewed and considered all comments received on the Draft PEIS. “We used a database to categorize comment topics, weighed the public’s concerns, made adjustments to the PEIS as called for, and then developed a ‘library’ of responses to create the comment response summary in Volume 4 of the Final PEIS,” explained LaVerne Kyriss, DOE NEPA Document Manager for the PEIS. Among the concerns expressed, some questioned proposed corridor routing near sensitive environmental areas, and others advocated required, rather than voluntary, interagency operating procedures that would be used to minimize or avoid project specific environmental impacts. As a result of the public comments, some corridor routes were altered to avoid sensitive environmental resources and proposed mandatory resource-specific interagency operating procedures were added to the Final PEIS.
“As applicants propose the construction or operation of new, and potentially cross-jurisdictional, energy transport facilities, BLM and affected agencies will take advantage of a streamlined process to review applications and address environmental and regulatory concerns,” explained Ray Brady, BLM Energy Team Leader. “In the past, project delays have often been the outcome of multiple agency offices issuing environmental reviews, project requirements, and land use authorizations.”
“The designation of energy corridors across all Federal lands, not just the National Forest System lands, provides land managers, the public, and industry a clear road map of where energy transportation facilities can be located,” said Greg Smith, Director of Lands, U.S. Forest Service. “This road map of connected corridor locations would help minimize impacts of mulitple uses of our National Forests. This project would improve the procedures for authorizing use of National Forest lands while addressing America’s needs for energy supplies and protect our natural resources,” he said.
Records of decision (RODs) can be issued no sooner than December 29, 2008, 30 days after issuance of the Final PEIS and, for BLM, after the 60-day Governors’ review required by BLM regulations. Although DOE is a co-lead agency, DOE will not issue a ROD, as the Department will not amend any land use, resource management, or equivalent plans.