Why the West-wide Energy Corridor Programmatic EIS Was Prepared
The Agencies concluded that preparing a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) to examine region-wide environmental concerns was appropriate, even in the absence of on-the ground environmental impacts resulting from the designation.
Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (the Act), Public Law 109-58 (H.R. 6), enacted August 8, 2005, directed the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior (the Agencies) to designate under their respective authorities corridors on federal land in eleven Western States for oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities (energy corridors).
The full text of Section 368 is as follows:
SEC. 368. ENERGY RIGHTOFWAY CORRIDORS ON FEDERAL LAND.
(a) Western States Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Energy, and the Secretary of the Interior (in this section referred to collectively as ‘the Secretaries’), in consultation with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, States, tribal or local units of governments as appropriate, affected utility industries, and other interested persons, shall consult with each other and shall--
(1) designate, under their respective authorities, corridors for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities on federal land in the eleven contiguous Western States (as defined in section 103(o) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1702(o));
(2) perform any environmental reviews that may be required to complete the designation
of such corridors; and
(3) incorporate the designated corridors into the relevant agency land use and resource management plans or equivalent plans.
(b) Other States Not later than 4 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretaries, in consultation with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, affected utility industries, and other interested persons, shall jointly--
(1) identify corridors for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities on federal land in States other than those described in subsection (a); and
(2) schedule prompt action to identify, designate, and incorporate the corridors into the applicable land use plans.
(c) Ongoing Responsibilities The Secretaries, in consultation with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, affected utility industries, and other interested parties, shall establish procedures under their respective authorities that--
(1) ensure that additional corridors for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities on federal land are promptly identified and designated as necessary; and
(2) expedite applications to construct or modify oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and
electricity transmission and distribution facilities within such corridors, taking into account prior analyses and environmental reviews undertaken during the designation of such corridors.
(d) Considerations In carrying out this section, the Secretaries shall take into account the need for upgraded and new electricity transmission and distribution facilities to--
(1) improve reliability;
(2) relieve congestion; and
(3) enhance the capability of the national grid to deliver electricity.
(e) Specifications of Corridor A corridor designated under this section shall, at a minimum, specify the centerline, width, and compatible uses of the corridor.
Section 368 required the Agencies to
conduct any “environmental reviews” necessary
to complete the designation of Section 368
energy corridors. The designation of
Section 368 energy corridors does not result in
any direct impacts on the ground that may
significantly affect the quality of the human
Nevertheless, the Agencies decided to
prepare a PEIS to conduct a detailed
environmental analysis at the programmatic
level and to integrate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at the earliest
possible time. The designation of more
than 6,000 miles of Section 368 energy corridors
among the various Agency land use plans was a
forward-looking response, mandated by statute,
to address a national concern.
NEPA requires that federal agencies prepare
a “detailed statement for major federal actions
significantly affecting the quality of the human
environment.” Here, the Agencies
concluded that preparing a PEIS to
examine region-wide environmental concerns was
appropriate, even in the absence of on-the ground
environmental impacts resulting from the
designation. Actual local environmental impacts
must inevitably await site-specific proposals and
the required site-specific environmental review.
A quantifiable and accurate evaluation of
impacts at the local scale can be made only in
response to an actual proposed energy project,
when a proposal for an action with specific
environmental consequences exists.
The decision to prepare an EIS for a
programmatic action such as that described by
Section 368 is supported by Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations at
Title 40, Part 1502.4(b), of the Code of Federal
Regulations (40 CFR 1502.4(b)), which state
that “Environmental Impact Statements may be
prepared and are sometimes required for broad
federal actions such as the adoption of new
agency programs or regulations
(Section 1508.8). Agencies shall prepare
statements on broad actions so that they are
relevant to policy and are timed to coincide with
meaningful points in agency planning and
A PEIS also allowed for early public
participation in the Section 368 energy corridor
designation process through a mechanism
familiar to interested members of the public. The
designation of several thousand miles of energy
transportation corridors is a large task. The PEIS
allowed the Agencies to seek public input very
early in the process through open comment
periods and public forums where concerns
regarding Section 368 energy corridors could be
raised to better inform
their decision-making process.