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What's in the West-wide Energy Corridor PEIS

The West-wide Energy Corridor Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) evaluated potential impacts associated with the designation of corridors on federal land in eleven Western States for oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities.


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 Agencies prepared a PEIS entitled "Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, Designation of Energy Corridors on Federal Land in the eleven Western States" (DOE/EIS-0386) to address the environmental impacts from the proposed action and no-action alternative.

Alternatives Considered in the PEIS

The Agencies identified one action alternative that applied a number of screening criteria to arrive at a set of corridors presented in the PEIS.

Proposed Action

As directed by Congress in Section 368 of EPAct, the participating Agencies examined the long-term needs of increased energy infrastructure in the West and proposed to designate energy corridors on federal land for oil, gas, and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities in eleven contiguous Western States. In addition, each Agency proposed amendments to its respective land use management plans or similar land use plans, as appropriate, to include the designated energy corridors on land it administers.

No Action Alternative

Under the No Action alternative, no Section 368 energy corridors would be designated through this coordinated approach. Under the No Action alternative, each of the Agencies would continue to designate local energy corridors through use of their present practices, which included the application of local planning criteria by each regional land management office.

Scope of the PEIS

The scope of the analysis in the PEIS included an assessment of any positive and negative environmental, social, and economic impacts of the alternatives. The Agencies examined the impacts of corridor designation on the natural environment, social systems, and the economy. The analyses conducted in preparation of the PEIS were based on current, available, and credible scientific and engineering information.

As a programmatic evaluation, this PEIS did not evaluate site-specific issues associated with potential individual energy transport projects. The combined and individual effects of location-specific and project-specific impacts were not foreseeable at the Section 368 energy corridor designation stage. Therefore, the Agencies did not speculate about project- and location-specific impacts in this PEIS. Local and project-specific impacts will be evaluated in the future at the individual-project level, and site-specific impacts will be addressed during individual project reviews. Individual project analyses, reviews, and approvals and denials may tier off the PEIS, thus using and referencing the information, analyses, and conclusions presented in the PEIS to supplement the project-specific reviews and analyses. However, individual project-specific decision making will not be supplanted by the PEIS.

PEIS Findings

The Proposed Action and No Action Alternatives were evaluated in the PEIS for potential environmental impacts associated with the designation of Section 368 energy corridors on federal lands and the amendment of land use plans to incorporate the corridor designations. In addition, the types of potential impacts that may occur from the development of future energy transport projects were also identified. Because the Proposed Action was the designation of corridors and not the construction and operation of any energy transport projects, only a qualitative evaluation was provided of the types of impacts that could result from development of an energy transport project regardless of project location. More quantitative impact analyses, including the identification of the magnitude and extent of potential impacts to specific social, cultural, economic, and natural resources, can only be conducted at the project level. This would be done in the future if an application to use a designated corridor were received by the Agencies.

No direct environmental impacts are expected to occur as a result of corridor designation and land use plan amendment. Corridor designation and the amendment of land use plans under the Proposed Action do not authorize the development of projects within the corridors, or require the use of a designated corridor. Project applicants could continue to request project-specific ROWs elsewhere on federal and nonfederal lands to meet their specific energy transport objectives, just as they currently do and would continue to do under the No Action Alternative.

Corridor designation may influence real estate values on nonfederal lands adjacent to or between Section 368 corridor segments. However, any changes would be purely economic and under CEQ regulations at 40 CFR 1508.14, would not by themselves require preparation of an EIS.

Under the No Action Alternative, there would be no Section 368 federal energy corridors designated on federal lands. Existing locally designated corridors would remain, and new corridors may continue to be locally designated. Under the Proposed Action, approximately 6,112 miles of such corridors are designated on federal lands. Approximately 71% of the corridors follow or include existing utility and/or transportation ROWs. There are 131 corridor segments that comprised the Proposed Action corridors. The following table provides a state-by-state breakdown on miles and acreages for the corridors as they were proposed in the PEIS.

Record of Decision

The "Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments/Record of Decision (ROD) for Designation of Energy Corridors on Bureau of Land Management-Administered Lands in the 11 Western States" was signed on January 15, 2009. The ROD amended 92 land use plans and designated more than 6,000 miles of energy transport corridors. The ROD also adopted interagency operating procedures (IOPs) and mitigation measures to help ensure that energy transport projects in Section 368 corridors are planned, implemented, and operated in a manner that protects and enhances environmental resources. Individual projects proposed for these corridors will undergo further, project-specific environmental analysis before being granted permits or rights-of-way.

The ROD for the designation of energy corridors on Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) lands was signed on January 14, 2009 and amended 38 National Forest Land Management Plans to identify corridors suitable for future energy transmission infrastructure across USFS land. The ROD also identified IOPs designed to ensure that projects are treated consistently by various federal managers and offer the agencies methods to improve efficiency and consistency.