Transmission Troubles

The West-wide Energy Corridor would put 6,000 miles of transmission lines across nearly 3 million acres of Western public lands.
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The federal government is facing a lawsuit from a coalition of environmental groups—including the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club—over Bush-era plans for new transmission corridors in the West.

The West-wide Energy Corridor would "cover 6,000 miles and almost three million acres of public lands," according to Nada Culver, senior council for the Wilderness Society. The corridors would be anywhere from 3,500 feet to five miles wide and are part of the government's plan to set up a more reliable network of pipelines and power lines to move energy—including hydrogen, natural gas and coal-fired electricity—to 11 energy-hungry Western states. They would be constructed in federally protected lands, including land adjacent to, or in, Joshua Tree National Park in California, Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico and Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.

The coalition of environmental groups, who filed suit on July 7 against the Interior, Agriculture and Energy departments in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, claims that the government's plan did not take environmental impacts into account, did not look at alternatives, failed to support renewable energy policies and did not consider local land use or other agency opinions. They are also worried about the impact these transmission corridors would have on endangered species.

"These corridors could have identified the best places for moving green energy across our public lands," said Culver in a release, "but the Bush administration ignored available scientific data and proposed corridors that threaten the scenic, cultural and natural values of some America's most popular and beloved public lands. The Obama administration has an opportunity to bring this plan in line with the West's goals to tap into its renewable energy potential while also protecting the region's wildlife and special places."

SOURCES: Center for Biological Diversity release; Red Green and Blue; Terrain.