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Does FERC want the authority to override states in the national interest?

image credit: https://www.manchin.senate.gov/imo/media/image/Manchin_Joe-new-bio.jpg
Rao Konidena's picture
Independent Consultant Rakon Energy LLC

Rao Konidena found Rakon Energy LLC because Rao is passionate about connecting clients to cost-effective solutions in energy consulting, storage, distributed energy resources, and electricity...

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  • Sep 28, 2022
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To streamline permitting for the Mountain Valley gas pipeline, Senator Manchin had proposed giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the authority to override state concerns for siting transmission lines. As reported in the popular press on September 27, he took the provision out at the last minute because he lacked enough votes. But it is worth asking the question - has anyone asked FERC if they want that authority to override state concerns?

The exact wording of the bill is, the Energy Secretary upon FERC’s guidance can “ designate any electric transmission facility proposed to be constructed or modified to be necessary in the national interest, conditioned on the completion of any required environmental review associated with any construction permit issued by the Commission under subsection (b) or any lease, easement, or right-of-way issued by the Secretary of the Interior, as applicable, if, after notice to each State commission affected by the designation and each person engaged in the transmission or sale of electric energy affected by the designation, and after opportunity for hearing, the Secretary finds the designation to be necessary or appropriate in the public interest.”

The proposed bill has good intentions because it prioritizes “25 energy projects of strategic national importance”. If we focus on transmission projects alone, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid has already done a nice job of tabulating 22 transmission projects. Most of these projects are in the western interconnection, where there is no regional region-wide Regional Transmission Organization. California ISO runs a Western Energy Imbalance Market, and then there is a Western Energy Imbalance Service (WEIS) Market run by Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

Each state has a Certificate of Public Convenience & Need (CPCN) proceeding to discuss the merits of a proposed transmission line transparently. Would the Manchin bill provide FERC that backstop authority if a state rejects a transmission line, but FERC decides it is needed for national interests? I am not convinced that FERC wants that authority to override the state’s decisions.   

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