Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A list of frequently asked questions about West-wide Energy Corridor review.
Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the designated energy transport corridors on Federal land in the 11 western states.
Why were Section 368 or West-wide energy corridors designated?
On August 8, 2005, the President signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) (Public Law 109-58) into law. Section 368 of EPAct directed the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior to designate corridors for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities on federal lands in the 11 contiguous western states. Congress also directed the agencies to perform any environmental reviews that may be required to complete the designation of the corridors and incorporate the corridors into land use plans.
On January 14, 2009, the Department of the Interior (DOI) approved a record of decision (ROD) to designate approximately 5,000 miles of corridors which included amendments to 92 land use plans in 11 western states. The U.S. Forest Service (FS) issued a ROD on January 14, 2009, which amended 38 national forest land management plans and designated approximately 990 miles of corridors in 10 states. Maps of the corridors can be found on the BLM's website.
The RODs included Interagency Operating Procedures (IOP), or best management practices, for the Section 368 corridors. The IOPs can be found on the BLM's website.
The BLM and Forest Service decisions relied upon the analysis in the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Designation of Energy Corridors on Federal Land in the 11 Western States (DOE/EIS-0386) (PEIS), issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), BLM, FS, and U.S. Department of Defense in 2008.
Where can I find information regarding the Section 368 Corridors?
Information regarding the PEIS, BLM and FS RODs, settlement agreement, and related documents is available on this website and on the BLM's website at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/transmission.html
Were the corridor locations chosen with any regard to delivering electricity generated from renewable resources?
Yes. When considering where to locate corridors, the agencies considered the possible future delivery of electricity generated from new renewable resources, including wind, geothermal, and solar energy. Congress also specified that designated corridors could also be used for hydrogen pipelines, which would be necessary to deliver fuel for hydrogen-powered vehicles in the future.
Do the corridor locations avoid specific areas altogether?
The agencies believe that the corridors avoid location-constrained areas to the maximum extent possible while still meeting the goals of Section 368. The four-step corridor siting evaluation process reduced the number of National Parks, National Monuments, and National Recreation Areas that are crossed to 7 (from 15 at the end of Step 2). Routes are identified on two National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) (down from as many as 12 early in the process) but no corridors are designated on NWR lands until specific projects are evaluated under the Fish and Wildlife Service's compatibility requirements. No Wilderness Areas are crossed by the corridors, reduced from 27 at the beginning of the process. Corridors cross three Wild and Scenic Rivers, one in California and two in Oregon.
What are the benefits from using designated corridors?
While project applicants are not required to locate projects in Section 368 corridors, applicants who would choose to use them could take advantage of a more efficient application process that includes:
- Providing applicants with a clear set of actions required by each agency to build projects in designated corridors
- Providing siting options for compatible projects in designated corridors
- Coordinating corridor designations across agency administrative barriers
- Coordinating agency administrative processes within corridors
- Applying Interagency Operating Procedures that would assist in preparing and evaluating ROW applications
- A single federal point of contact for each ROW application
- Incorporation by reference from the PEIS for project-specific environmental review
- Focusing project planning data collection and project-specific engineering on issues specific to the proposed project and the associated within-corridor ROW and not on alternative locations
These benefits could expedite the application, authorization, and construction of energy transport projects as directed by Section 368.
Some Section 368 Corridors are bisected by non-federal land. Did the BLM or FS designate Section 368 Corridors on non-federal lands?
No. Section 368 Corridors are designated on federal lands only as directed in Section 368 of the EPAct. Because Section 368 Corridors on federal lands may affect routing of projects on adjacent non-federal lands, robust stakeholder outreach is appropriate when considering site-specific projects utilizing Section 368 Corridors and proposals to add, delete, or revise Section 368 Corridors.
Why are the Agencies reviewing the previously designated energy transport corridors?
Ongoing reviews are required by Section 368 of the EPAct. In addition, on July 7, 2009, several non-profit organizations (Plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California challenging the designation of the Section 368 energy corridors pursuant to the EPAct, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. The parties entered into a settlement agreement, which was approved on July 11, 2012. The review of the corridors is a requirement of the settlement agreement.
What is the settlement agreement?
On July 7, 2009, several non-profit organizations (Plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California challenging the designation of the Section 368 energy corridors pursuant to the EPAct, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act.
On July 11, 2012, the court dismissed the case pursuant to the Settlement. The primary objective of the Settlement is to ensure that future section 368 corridor revisions, deletions, and additions consider the following principles: (1) location of section 368 corridors in favorable landscapes; (2) facilitation of renewable energy projects where feasible; (3) avoidance of environmentally sensitive areas to the maximum extent practicable; (4) diminution of the proliferation of dispersed rights-of-way crossing the landscape; and (5) improvement of the long-term benefits of reliable and safe transmission.
The Settlement further established that public input and an open and transparent process with engagement by tribes, States, local governments, and other interested parties would occur as part of the process for making potential revisions, deletions, or additions to section 368 corridors. To accomplish these objectives, the Settlement set forth four principal components: (1) Interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) addressing periodic corridor reviews; (2) agency guidance; (3) training; and (4) a corridor study. Additionally, the Agencies will re-evaluate as part of the regional periodic reviews the 45 corridors of concern (COC) identified by the Plaintiffs in Exhibit A of the Settlement. All obligations under the Settlement are contingent upon the availability of appropriated funds.
What progress have the BLM, FS, and DOE made towards fulfilling the requirements of the settlement agreement?
- BLM, DOE, and FS formed a Workgroup in August 2012, which meets regularly.
- BLM issued IM 2013-118 in April 2013.
- BLM, DOE, and FS executed the Memorandum of Understanding, Regional Periodic Review Work Plan, and Corridor Study Work Plan for Section 368 Corridors in July 2013.
- BLM, DOE, and FS published a request for information regarding the Section 368 Corridor Study, Regional Periodic Reviews, and Interagency Operating Procedures in March 2014.
- BLM issued IM 2014-080 in April 2014.
- FS issued Interim Directive 2720-2014-2 in August 2014.
- Ongoing revisions are being made to the National Lands Training for Line Officers and Program Managers course. The updated course is scheduled to be offered in October 2014.
What additional requirements do the BLM, FS, and DOE have to meet under the settlement agreement? How will field offices be engaged in these activities?
The BLM, DOE, and FS must prepare a Corridor Study to assess whether and to what extent Section 368 Corridors have been utilized. The agencies also must prepare Regional Periodic Reviews, relying in part on the Corridor Study. The purpose of these reviews is to consider possible corridor revisions, deletions, or additions. The agencies will prioritize regions in the western states where periodic reviews will be conducted and conduct those reviews. The review process will include robust opportunities for stakeholder engagement. The agencies are currently identifying regions and venues for stakeholder coordination. Upon conclusion of the regional periodic reviews, the Workgroup will provide recommendations to the appropriate BLM and FS line managers regarding corridor additions, deletions, and revisions. The agencies have initiated the process for preparing the Corridor Study and the Regional Periodic Reviews.
What are corridors of concern?
In the settlement agreement, the Plaintiffs identified several Section 368 corridors designated by the agencies as corridors of concern (COCs) and specified concerns with each COC. Siting projects within COCs may lead to heightened public interest and concern and could result in additional litigation, increased mitigation, and significant environmental impacts or involve consideration of alternative siting options. BLM and FS personnel and project developers need to be aware of the COCs and the potential risks of siting projects within them. Corridors of concern are identified in Exhibit A of the Settlement Agreement and are provided in tabular form separately.
How will the BLM address applications for projects proposed to be located in a COC?
The BLM and the FS will inform all prospective applicants of the list of COCs, interagency operating procedures, and other relevant documents and aspects of the settlement agreement.
To what extent have the agencies granted ROWs in the designated corridors?
The initial Corridor Study is intended to obtain information about how Section 368 designated corridors are being used to date and the outlook for future use.
What changes may be considered to the previously designated corridors?
On the basis of the initial Corridor Study and regional periodic reviews, as well as ongoing land use planning by the Agencies, routes of the Section 368 designated corridors could be changed, widths of the corridors could be modified, compatible uses could be modified, corridors could be deleted, and/or new corridors could be added.
To what extent will additional new corridors be considered in the review?
In accordance with the Settlement Agreement of the lawsuit brought by the Wilderness Society and others against the Agencies, the primary objective of the periodic reviews is to ensure that future section 368 corridor revisions, deletions, and additions consider the following principles: (1) location of section 368 corridors in favorable landscapes; (2) facilitation of renewable energy projects where feasible; (3) avoidance of environmentally sensitive areas to the maximum extent practicable; (4) diminution of the proliferation of dispersed rights-of-way crossing the landscape; and (5) improvement of the long-term benefits of reliable and safe transmission. Ongoing agency planning, including general public involvement, as well as more specific information received from prospective ROW applicants and their organizational groups, environmental organizations, and other government agencies will be reviewed and analyzed in the review process. Recommendations for new corridors could be one outcome of the review.
How are changes to Section 368 corridors incorporated into land use planning efforts?
Revisions, additions, and deletions to Section 368 Corridors can be undertaken at any time. Because Section 368 Corridors provide connectivity to local and regional energy generation sources, additions, deletions, and substantial revisions to Section 368 Corridors can impact corridor alignments and project siting on neighboring BLM or FS lands. Thorough coordination with all potentially impacted parties is essential. Proposed revisions, additions, and deletions to Section 368 Corridors should be undertaken only after thorough engagement with affected stakeholders, including federal, state, and local governments, tribal governments, the public, utility companies, energy and utility trade associations, and the Plaintiffs. BLM and FS line managers should generally take a landscape-level approach when considering additions, deletions, or substantial revisions to Section 368 Corridors. Detailed guidance is provided in IM 2014-080 for the BLM and Interim Directive 2720-2014-2 for the FS.
For ongoing projects, does the settlement agreement require the BLM and the FS to analyze Section 368 Corridor modifications as part of the NEPA?
The settlement agreement does not require the BLM and the FS to analyze modifications to site-specific projects proposing to use Section 368 Corridors. Instead, it requires the BLM and FS to include as part of the corridor guidance a reminder that the agencies will prepare individual NEPA analyses for site-specific projects proposing to use Section 368 Corridors and to include an analysis about whether the use of the corridor is appropriate for the site-specific project and/or whether the agency should modify or delete the corridor and designate an alternative corridor. BLM's recent Section 368 Corridor guidance captures this instruction. See BLM Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2014-080, issued April 2014; and FS Interim Directive 2726.43k – Use of 368 Corridors in Siting Energy Projects, effective August 7, 2014.
When analyzing site-specific projects proposing to use Section 368 Corridors, BLM and FS line managers should generally take a landscape-level approach when considering additions, deletions, or substantial revisions to Section 368 Corridors. In some cases, it may be appropriate for BLM and FS line managers to address relatively minor corridor revisions (e.g., localized alignment shifts and minor width changes) in a project-specific NEPA review and land use plan amendment.
The settlement agreement does set forth a systematic process for the BLM, FS, and DOE to review corridors and provide recommendations to agency managers for possible future revisions, deletions, or additions to Section 368 Corridors. On July 8, 2013, the agencies executed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides instructions for conducting the review process, which includes a work plan.
Are there changes to the BLM and FS NEPA procedures with respect to Section 368 Corridors?
No. However, line managers must ensure they perform site-specific environmental review of projects that would be located in Section 368 Corridors. Where appropriate, line managers may incorporate by reference relevant portions of the PEIS. Because the PEIS analysis was conducted at a broad level, it is not appropriate to issue a decision tiered to the PEIS without first conducting site-specific analysis. Refer to IM 2014-080, and Chapter 5 of BLM's National Environmental Policy Act Handbook (H-1790-1), dated January 2008, for detailed guidance on tiering to programmatic documents. See also FS Handbook 1909.15 – National Environmental Policy Act Handbook, Chapter 20, Environmental Impact Statements and Related Documents, dated September 14, 2011.
How can I request additional information?
Requests may be submitted in several ways:
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