Chair Murkowski Chews Out an Undersecretary. At a Senate panel on a bill calling for the Department of Energy to store nuclear waste short-term, opponents stacked up objections, even renewing...
Chronicle of a Transmission Line Siting
Cross-Sound Cable Co. shows how transmission siting is much harder to do now than in the good old days.
Opposition to electric transmission line projects designed to upgrade the nation's infrastructure can come from a number of sources: the host municipality, adjacent municipalities, the state's executive branch, the legislative branch, commercial entities, ad hoc or long-standing environmental groups, and/or organized citizen groups. The issues raised can require expertise in an array of thorny legal and factual issues not traditionally encountered in straightforward siting proceedings of the past. Siting a transmission line project today can require strategic analysis and the assembly of a multi-disciplinary team of lawyers and consultants to help safely guide the project around and over the challenges that may be encountered.
The efforts of Cross-Sound Cable Co. LLC to site and construct a 330-megawatt electric transmission line buried under the seabed of Long Island Sound from New Haven, Conn., to Long Island, N.Y., illustrate the new siting reality. The Cross-Sound project and legal team were required to address issues well beyond the regulatory/siting matters that used to be the norm in siting a transmission line, requiring expertise in aquaculture, jetting, computer modeling of sedimentation and tides, municipal rights, land use under the water, state's rights and federal constitutional issues.
Along the way, the project would pit Connecticut's governor against the state's attorney general and legislature, both of which tried to bring a halt to the project.
'Straightforward Process' Hits Turbulence
- In the 1980s and early 1990s, utilities expanded the electric grid substantially to meet load growth and enable the transport of electricity over long distances. Siting and constructing electric transmission lines was a straightforward process for the utility, entailing engineering and preparation of the application to the siting agency. The process was generally linear, direct, and relatively time-efficient and cost-efficient. The utility would:
- (1) determine the need for the transmission line;
- (2) investigate alternative routes, based upon proximity to existing bulk infrastructure and expected load growth;
- (3) determine the least costly route, taking into account technical feasibility and environmental considerations;
- (4) design the project to minimize environmental impacts;
- (5) consult with the municipality(ies) in which the line would be located;
- (6) design the project; and
- (7) apply for siting approval and, as necessary, state approval of construction methods.
- Today, siting and constructing an electric transmission line has become a multi-disciplinary municipal, regulatory and litigation process with a maze of twists and turns. The process can be circuitous, repetitive, time-consuming and costly. In addition to the basic steps outlined above, a transmission line project's personnel today can find that they are required to:
- (a) attend municipal hearings;
- (b) respond to allegations made at municipal hearings;
- (c) respond to media inquiries about the allegations;
- (d) meet with known opponents;
- (e) participate in a contested siting proceeding, putting on a complete direct case, cross-examining opponents' witnesses on environmental and commercial issues, and presenting a rebuttal case;
- (f) oppose opponents' motions during the siting proceeding and oppose motions for reconsideration after siting approval is granted;
- (g) defend against opponents' court action seeking a stay