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Settlement Agreement

An overview of the Settlement Agreement, including objectives and principal components.

Background Information

On July 7, 2009, the Wilderness Society, BARK, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Sierra Club, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Western Resource Advocates, Western Watersheds Project, and County of San Miguel, Colorado (Plaintiffs) filed a complaint against the Agencies challenging the PEIS, DOI and USFS RODs, and associated energy corridor designations (Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 3:09-cv-03048-JW [D.N.D. Cal.]) pursuant to the Energy Policy Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. On July 11, 2012, the BLM, USFS, Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Justice developed a Settlement Agreement (Settlement) with the Plaintiffs that contains specific actions to resolve the challenges in the Complaint.

Settlement Objectives

The primary objective of the Settlement is to ensure that future revisions, deletions, or additions to the Section 368 energy corridors consider the following:

  1. Location of 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 ("ROWs") crossing the landscape; and
  5. Improvement of the long-term benefits of reliable and safe energy transmission.

Four Principal Components of the Settlement

The Settlement has 4 principal components:

1. Interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) addressing periodic corridor reviews.

In June 2013, the BLM, USFS, and DOE entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding regional periodic reviews, including a review of the IOPs, for Section 368 energy corridors. The MOU describes the interagency process for conducting regional periodic reviews of the Section 368 energy corridors (including review of IOPs) and includes a Work Plan for conducting the regional reviews which directs the Interagency Workgroup to examine new relevant information, the Section 368 energy corridor study, and public input, and based on this information will develop recommendations for any revisions, deletions, or additions to the Section 368 corridors. The future reviews will be completed subject to availability of appropriated funds and will result in recommendations to BLM and USFS line managers to use designated corridors more effectively and to add, delete, or modify corridors where appropriate.

The reviews will take siting principles into account. Siting principles to be used in future siting recommendations:

  • sited to provide maximum utility and minimum impact to the environment;
  • promote efficient use of the 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 sources of generation.

Information and Data for Review: Review materials could include results of electric transmission needs and renewable energy potential studies conducted by WECC and WGA; results of BLM eco-regional assessments; agency corridor study of current use of Section 368 energy corridors and IOPs; on-going resource studies; and other studies (i.e. renewable portfolio standards).

IOP Review: BLM and USFS shall review the IOPs adopted in their respective ROD designating energy corridors and shall consider new IOPs submitted by Plaintiffs for specific resources including, wildlife, wilderness characteristics, and special areas and shall develop recommendations for updating the IOPs with their periodic review of corridors.

Revision of any PEIS corridors would occur (1) during the normal course of the land use planning process, (2) during environmental review of a site-specific project that occasions reconsideration of a particular corridor, or (3) during LUP revisions proposed specifically to address potential corridor changes.

For more information about the regional reviews, including timeline, documents, and implementation, see the Regional Periodic Reviews page.

2. Agency Guidance

Agency Guidance will embody principles described in the Agreement and will address the need for site-specific NEPA analysis for individual projects. Guidance will include:

  • Encourage project proponents to locate projects within designated corridors or adjacent to existing ROWs, notify project proponents of any Section 368 energy corridor segments that are corridors of concern, and consider alternative locations if a proposed project would be located within a Section 368 energy corridor of concern segment.
  • Corridors of concern are corridors that would have environmental impacts, extensive mitigation measures or would require preparation of EIS, alternative corridor considerations or LUP amendments. Corridors of concern are identified in Exhibit A of the Settlement Agreement.
  • Site specific projects will require individual NEPA analysis. To reduce redundant studies, encourage individual projects to 'incorporate by reference' data and studies in the Final PEIS. Tiering is not a substitute for site specific analyses.
  • Procedures for periodic review and update of IOPs; use of IOPs outside designated corridors on federal land; and adoption of IOPs approved by the agencies.
  • Revisions, deletions, and additions to corridors must meet the requirements specified in Section 368 of the EPAct and must consider the siting principles.

3. Training

The BLM's and USFS's training materials will be updated to incorporate the principles in the Settlement. The agencies will review existing training materials and incorporate an increased emphasis on environmental considerations when siting and permitting pipelines and transmission line.

4. Corridor study

The 368 corridors will be studied to assess whether the PEIS corridors are achieving their purposes to promote efficient and environmentally sensitive corridor-siting decisions, and reducing the proliferation of dispersed ROWs crossing the landscape of federal lands.

The study will identify types and numbers of projects, and the widths and lengths of existing ROWs within the corridors; will identify where corridors are being over- or underutilized and evaluate use of the IOPs in order to recommend potential new or modified IOPs; and will inform the periodic review of Section 368 energy corridors and IOPs and be made public upon completion.

Instruction Memorandum 2010-169

The Settlement requires the issuance of a new BLM instruction memorandum setting forth guidance for the siting and construction of electric transmission infrastructure in Section 368 energy corridors. This new Instruction Memorandum 2014-080, dated April 7, 2014, replaces the section, entitled "Environmental Review and Energy Corridors," from Instruction Memorandum No. 2010-169, dated July 28, 2010.

Interim Directive 2720-2014-2 (2726.43k)

The USFS also issued Interim Directive 2726.43k – Use of 368 Corridors in Siting Energy Projects, effective August 7, 2014, a portion of which sets forth guidance for the siting and construction of electric transmission infrastructure in Section 368 energy corridors.