Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A list of frequently asked questions about West-wide Energy Corridors.
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?
- Where can I find information regarding the Section 368 energy corridors?
- Were the corridor locations chosen with any regard to delivering electricity generated from renewable resources?
- Do the corridor locations avoid specific areas altogether?
- What are the benefits from using designated corridors?
- Some Section 368 energy corridors are bisected by non-federal land. Did the BLM or USFS designate Section 368 energy corridors on non-federal lands?
- Why are the Agencies reviewing the previously designated energy transport corridors?
- What is the Settlement Agreement?
- What are the Regional Reviews?
- What are corridors of concern?
- What changes may be considered to the previously designated corridors?
- To what extent will additional new corridors be considered in the review?
- How are changes to Section 368 energy corridors incorporated into land use planning efforts?
- Are there changes to the BLM and USFS NEPA procedures with respect to Section 368 energy corridors?
- How can I request additional information?
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 (USFS) 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 Energy Corridor Maps and Geospatial Data page of this website.
The BLM and USFS 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, USFS, and U.S. Department of Defense in 2008.
Where can I find information regarding the Section 368 energy corridors?
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 of the EPAct. 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 energy 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 of the EPAct.
Some Section 368 energy corridors are bisected by non-federal land. Did the BLM or USFS designate Section 368 energy corridors on non-federal lands?
No. Section 368 energy corridors are designated on federal lands only as directed in Section 368 of the EPAct. Because Section 368 energy 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 energy corridors and proposals to revise, delete, or add Section 368 energy 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 Agreement. The primary objective of the Settlement Agreement is to ensure that future Section 368 energy corridor revisions, deletions, and additions consider the following principles: (1) location of Section 368 energy 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 Agreement further established that stakeholder 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 energy corridors. To accomplish these objectives, the Settlement Agreement set forth five components: (1) Interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) addressing Regional Reviews; (2) agency guidance; (3) training; (4) a corridor study; and (5) periodic Regional Reviews. Additionally, the Agencies will re-evaluate as part of the Regional Reviews the 45 corridors of concern identified by the Plaintiffs in Exhibit A of the Settlement Agreement. All obligations under the Settlement Agreement are contingent upon the availability of appropriated funds. Progress made toward fulfilling the Settlement Agreement includes the following:
- BLM, DOE, and USFS formed an Interagency Workgroup in August 2012, which meets monthly.
- BLM, DOE, and USFS executed the Memorandum of Understanding, Regional Periodic Review Work Plan, and Corridor Study Work Plan for Section 368 energy corridors in July 2013.
- BLM, DOE, and USFS published a request for information (RFI) regarding the Section 368 Corridor Study, Regional Reviews, and Interagency Operating Procedures (IOPs) in March 2014.
- BLM issued Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2013-118 in April 2013 and IM 2014-080 in April 2014 and revised training provided in the National Lands Training for Line Officers and Program Managers course.
- USFS issued Interim Directive 2720-2014-2 in August 2014.
- The BLM, DOE and USFS released a Corridor Study in April 2016 to assess whether and to what extent Section 368 energy corridors have been utilized.
- The Interagency Workgroup initiated Regional Reviews in 2016.
What are the Regional Reviews?
The Settlement Agreement set forth a systematic process for the BLM, USFS, and DOE to review corridors and provide input to agency managers for possible future revisions, deletions, or additions to Section 368 energy 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. The review process will include robust opportunities for stakeholder engagement. Upon conclusion of the regional reviews, the Agencies will provide input regarding potential corridor revisions, deletions, and additions.
What are corridors of concern?
In the Settlement Agreement, the Plaintiffs identified several Section 368 energy corridors designated by the Agencies as corridors of concern and specified concerns with each corridor of concern. Siting projects within corridors of concern 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 USFS personnel and project developers need to be aware of the corridors of concern and the potential risks of siting projects within them. Corridors of concern are identified in Exhibit A of the Settlement Agreement.
The BLM and the USFS will inform all prospective applicants of the list of corridors of concern, interagency operating procedures, and other relevant documents and aspects of the Settlement Agreement.
What changes may be considered to the previously designated corridors?
On the basis of the Corridor Study and regional reviews, as well as ongoing land use planning by the Agencies, routes of the Section 368 energy corridors could be revised, widths of the corridors could be changed, 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 Plaintiffs against the Agencies, the primary objective of the Regional Reviews is to ensure that future Section 368 energy corridor revisions, deletions, and additions consider the following principles: (1) location of Section 368 energy 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 stakeholder 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 Regional Review process. Input for considerations for new corridors could be one outcome of the Regional Reviews.
How are changes to Section 368 energy corridors incorporated into land use planning efforts?
Revisions, deletions, and additions to Section 368 energy corridors can be undertaken at any time. Because Section 368 energy corridors provide connectivity to local and regional energy generation sources, substantial revisions, deletions, and additions to Section 368 energy corridors can impact corridor alignments and project siting on neighboring BLM or USFS lands. Thorough coordination with all potentially impacted parties is essential. Proposed revisions, additions, and deletions to Section 368 energy corridors should be undertaken only after thorough engagement with affected stakeholders, including federal, state, and local governments, tribal governments, utility companies, energy and utility trade associations, and the Plaintiffs. BLM and USFS line managers should generally take a landscape-level approach when considering substantial revisions, deletions, and additions to Section 368 energy corridors. Detailed guidance is provided in IM 2014-080 for the BLM and Interim Directive 2720-2014-2 for the USFS.
Are there changes to the BLM and USFS NEPA procedures with respect to Section 368 energy corridors?
No. However, line managers must ensure they perform site-specific environmental review of projects that would be located in Section 368 energy 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 USFS 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:
- Online through the project website at https://corridoreis.anl.gov
- by phone or e-mail to:
Bureau of Land Management
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