Are “national interest electric corridors” for us or for the industry? (10/3/07)

Photo of a southern Fauquier powerline provided by the Piedmont Environmental Council accompanied the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s September 28 article, “High-Voltage Debate: Should Power Lines Bisect Historic Places?” by Whitney Dangerfield. To read WaPost coverage on a new proposed line for Fauquier county, go here.

To review the following blog post on Newstrust, go here:

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In “ US trumps states over siting power lines: Designated as part of a national power ‘corridor’ Tuesday, Virginia could see transmission towers near Civil War sites,” coming out tomorrow, Christian Science Monitor‘s Mark Clayton reports on the Department of Energy’s new “national interest electric corridors.”

Huge transmission lines could soon skirt Civil War battlegrounds, historic districts, and the Appalachian Trail…federal order…designates national corridors in two key regions of the United States with fast-growing electricity needs….[that] allow the US Energy Department – not states – to be…final arbiter of where…lines are built… Tuesday’s move is certain to spark a fresh round of lawsuits and inject vigor into congressional debates about new energy legislation…. At stake is the reliability and cost of electric power in the Northeast, its embrace of green energy, and the ambience of hundreds of thousands of rural acres from New York to Virginia.

Clayton’s is the first national paper to provide coverage other than the AP account. He cites both the government’s position and that of opponents and the possible results of the order. He fails to mention that the National Trust for Historic Presenrvation named historic places in transmission corridors as one of the 11 most endangered historic sites for 2007. And while he mentions the order’s source of legislative authority, he fails to set it within the framework of other Bush administration orders, several recent, which favor the desires of the energy industry over those of advocates for environmental quality or worker safety.

Consider, not just the coal industry’s lobbying for tax breaks while trying to weaken mine safety or its push to deregulate mountaintop removal that would negate the 100 yard perimeter protecting streams. Take a look at this order following the bidding of the gas industry, revealed by the New York Times’s Dan Van Natta, Jr., on April 4, 2002: “Executive order followed energy industry recommendation, documents show.” And I could go on and on.

Frank Wolfe (R-VA) proposed the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor Clarification Act ( H.R.829) on February 26, 2007 , still stuck in Rich Boucher’s (D-VA) House Committee on Energy and Commerce Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. The measure would strip the 2005 energy bill of its “national interest electric corridors” provision, as did Maurice Hinchey’s (D-NY) amendment H.AMDT.350 to the Energy and Water Budget appropriation, H.R.2641 ,which, sadly failed in June, with the help of Boucher and West Virginia’s powerful Nick Rahall (D), who as ever, are looking out for Big Coal. All of us here in Appalachia know how the industry just loves generating electricity, despite the climate change and air qualaity implications.

For some reason, as I write this, Thomas provides no information on Wolfe’s bill submitted in February, just a disclaimer that “Bills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from the Government Printing Office a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.” Fortunately, GovTrack.us, another database of federal legislation, has all the information here.

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When Aldon Hynes pointed the Newstrust site out to me, I was glad to see an initiative that promoted quality journalism and included both the mainstream and alternative media. Until recently, I had used it mostly as a news aggregator and reviewed a few stories, but it seemed to me that many were on hot topics. So, for the last couple of days, I’ve tried to find breaking stories which I viewed as important, which hadn’t made it to the site’s radar screen yet.

The site’s founder, Fabrice Florin, kinding listed both this and yesterday’s suggestion about the Air Force muscling one of its contracts for a no-work job for for of its proposed procurement officers as a top story. And today, he also took the time to email me with these kind words:

I wanted to personally thank you for your great work on Newstrust in the past few days. You will soon hear from our associate editor, Kaizar Campwalla, about giving you more editing privileges on our site, and inviting you to a conference call next week with our regular hosts and editors. You contributions are inspiring ��� it���s such a pleasure to see pros like you lend a hand to our citizen initiative. It makes it all the more worthwhile. Look forward to speaking with you soon. All the best, Fabrice
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