The 2005 Act, designed to streamline projects, may fall short of that goal.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT)1 established a new regulatory framework for the siting of electric transmission projects. Under EPACT, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in certain circumstances, has the authority to site transmission projects in National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors designated by the Department of Energy (DOE). The political debate continues as to whether federal or state regulators should have the final authority to site electric transmission, but for now, EPACT is the law of the land.
However, the scope and application of this statute are unresolved, leaving many unanswered questions and potential pitfalls for those who must site new transmission projects.
The goals of EPACT were to streamline the siting process and to provide a federal “trump card” for projects delayed at the local level. The statute clearly is a compromise solution, however, and it is far from clear whether these goals have been achieved.
The Oversimplification Problem
The principal problem presented by EPACT is its failure to provide a clear delineation of federal and state authority. The standard “sound bite” summary of EPACT is that FERC now has “backstop” siting authority for transmission projects when the state regulatory authority does not act within one year to approve a project. Like most sound bites, this is a gross oversimplification.