Regional Periodic Reviews
An overview of Regional Periodic Reviews, including corridor abstracts for public review, considerations identified in the Corridor Study; opportunities for public participation; and updates to the regional review process, when available.
Priority Region 1 for Review of Section 368 Energy Corridors
The Regional Reviews will be guided by the following corridor siting principles from the 2012 settlement agreement, to ensure that:
- Corridors are thoughtfully sited to provide maximum utility and minimum impact to the environment;
- Corridors promote efficient use of landscape for necessary development;
- Appropriate and acceptable uses are defined for specific corridors; and
- Corridors provide connectivity to renewable energy generation to the maximum extent possible, while also considering other generation, in order to balance the renewable sources and to ensure the safety and reliability of electricity transmission.
The outcome of the Regional Reviews will be the development of recommendations for specific corridor additions, deletions, or alterations, where warranted. An interim step to the recommendations is an initial analysis of opportunities and constraints by corridor. Corridor abstracts have been developed to assist the Agencies and the public identify specific opportunities and concerns and identify which corridors effectively meet current and projected energy needs and which fall short either due to limited remaining capacity, site-specific conflicts, or other considerations. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to review and comment on the abstracts and subsequently the recommendations. The recommendations will be considered for implementation by the BLM and FS during subsequent agency land-use planning processes.
In June 2013, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was entered into among the BLM, the FS, and the DOE regarding regional periodic reviews, including a review of the IOPs, for Section 368 Corridors. The MOU includes a Work Plan for conducting the regional reviews which directs the Interagency Workgroup to examine the new relevant information, the Section 368 corridor study, and public input, and based on this information will develop recommendations for any revisions, deletions, or additions to the Section 368 corridors. Those future reviews will be completed subject to availability of appropriated funds and will result in recommendations to BLM and FS line managers to use designated corridors more effectively and to add, delete, or modify corridors where appropriate. As part of the reviews, the agencies will re-evaluate corridors of concern and will review IOPs to identify any needed revisions, deletions, and additions.
As required by the Settlement Agreement, the BLM, FS, and DOE identified and prioritized regions where corridors will be reviewed. For maps of all six priority regions, see the Maps & Data Tab.
Considerations for Regional Reviews as Identified in the Corridor Study
As directed in the Work Plan, the Corridor Study is being used to inform the periodic reviews.
The questions below were identified in the Corridor Study as questions that the agencies should ask during regional corridor reviews:
- What opportunities are available in each priority region to conduct co-location exercises (initiated at the pre-application process) to reduce bottlenecks and better ensure that multiple projects could be located in the same corridor?
- How can agencies within each priority region seek opportunities to site ROW projects parallel to corridor centerlines where feasible? Can targeted on-the-ground inspections be conducted during regional reviews to identify siting inefficiencies and siting opportunities?
- Would regional land use plan review and/or conducting targeted on-the-ground inspections assist in identifying existing or anticipated siting conflicts related to adjacent uses which may not be compatible with siting major linear infrastructure (e.g. oil and gas well pads, meteorological towers, substations, compressor stations, etc.)? What have agency offices considered to determine appropriate siting distances between linear infrastructure as well as buffer distances from non-linear structures and the corridors?
- What effect would implementing minimum spacing (consistent with accepted industry standards) between ROW projects have on corridors? For example the 2012 WECC new Adjacent Transmission Circuits definition that reduced the separation distance between centerlines from 1,500 to 250 ft. Have agency offices explored opportunities to adopt spacing standards and/or seek to incentivize more efficient use of the corridors?
- Would modifying corridors, where feasible, allow for more uniform corridor width? The study found a number of siting constraints which result in portions of corridors with reduced widths. Some of these "pinch points" were identified when corridors were originally designated in 2009 and others are the result of more recent siting constraints.
- What success have agencies had with engaging industry and other technical experts to explore challenges and opportunities related to implementing project design alternatives, such as expanded use of DC current where feasible, undergrounding portions of high-voltage cables where feasible, and use of tower types with reduced footprints and/or visually less intrusive as well as modified or emerging materials? What can agencies do to incentivize uses within corridors?
- Would mapping Section 368 corridors and authorized rights-of-way within the corridors through established standards for GIS data collection, analysis, and retention/tracking provide a benefit? Have the agencies explored future opportunities to provide a simple and cost-effective platform to display corridor centerline locations, ROW authorizations, and environmental data for the 11 western states?
- What can be done to improve corridor connectivity across administrative jurisdictions? For instance, can BLM and FS collaborate with Reclamation to identify and designate corridors across Reclamation-administered land to connect with existing designated segments. Could this process also be applied to other Federal and State agencies where gaps in corridors prevent corridor use?
- How should agencies update and expand education, training and guidance on Section 368 corridors, either on an intra-agency basis or inter-agency basis? The study found there is some confusion and/or a lack of understanding by some agency personnel regarding the Settlement Agreement requirements and the process for addressing use of Corridors of Concern as well as designating new corridors or modifying and deleting corridors. There is similar confusion and/or misunderstanding with respect to implementing the IOPs. Some of this may be due to turnover in managers and staff since 2009.
- How can the FS explore the challenges and opportunities to expand and improve siting projects on National Forests?
- Is there new and relevant information to incorporate since 2014? The Regional Periodic Reviews should include new and relevant information from 2015 and beyond to continue to seek further improvement of the corridors, to protect public lands and better serve the nation's energy needs. The timeframe considered for the Corridor Study was 2009 to 2014. Energy development and associated infrastructure are dynamic environments. Agency actions and public opinions regarding land uses and siting opportunities and constraints on federal lands constantly evolve and should be reflected in the Regional Periodic Reviews.
In addition to the questions listed above, additional recommendations for consideration in the Regional Periodic Reviews include:
- Although BLM Instruction Memorandum No. 2014-080 and FS Interim Directive No. 2720-2014-2 provide guidance to the BLM and FS regarding management of Section 368 corridors, there may be a need for better direction to reach the field level as well as clarification and training regarding modification of Section 368 corridors to improve their utility and purpose. Additional training at the BLM National Training Center, which is used by both the BLM and FS, and national webinars could help bridge the information gap and could inform the agencies about Section 368 corridors and each agency's policies.
- Regional Periodic Reviews should emphasize efforts by BLM and FS line managers to utilize designated corridors, including Section 368 corridors, more effectively and to modify Section 368 corridors where appropriate through land use planning amendments and revisions. Modification can include relocation, adjustments in width or allowable use, agreements with other jurisdictions to promote continuity, and removal.
- The regional reviews should focus on identifying over-utilized corridors. On-the-ground field inspections and review of official government land records should be conducted as part of future regional reviews. A more intensive analysis of over- and under-utilized corridors can be completed with additional GIS information from BLM offices and National Forests coupled with on-the-ground inspections and data collection and analysis.
During the regional reviews the agencies will provide information to and solicit input from the public, state and local governments, federal agencies, tribes, and other interested persons.
The public will be notified at least 15 days in advance of any meetings, webinars, or solicitations for input. Outreach may include listening sessions, electronic town hall meetings, web postings, or other appropriate means.
For more information about opportunities for public participation, see the Getting Involved tab.