NARUC voices opposition to bill that gives federal control to electric transmission siting

Published on December 15, 2022 by Dave Kovaleski

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The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) voiced its opposition to a bill introduced last week by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that would give federal regulators full control over electric transmission siting.

Manchin’s bill, the Building American Energy Security Act of 2022, would accelerate permitting of all types of energy and mineral infrastructure needed to achieve energy security and climate objectives without bypassing environmental laws or community input.

In a letter to Manchin, NARUC officials said the proposal would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission carte blanche jurisdiction over electric transmission siting without respect to local circumstances or needs. NARUC officials called it a “broad overreach” that infringes on existing state siting and cost allocation authority for electric transmission projects.

“Put bluntly, should this provision become law, FERC will have jurisdiction over electric transmission siting wherever and whenever they choose, regardless of local circumstances and/or needs. It simply flies in the face of federalism. The US Constitution was ratified as a protection of the rights of the states from the federal government, not the other way around,” NARUC President Michael Caron wrote in a letter to Manchin.

The bill is expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“I struggle to understand how any of my colleagues could in good conscious consider voting against bipartisan, comprehensive energy permitting reform that benefits all types of energy as the American people continue to demand Congress put politics aside and act on commonsense solutions to solve the issues facing us. We have one such viable solution before us, and I urge each of my colleagues to vote to ensure that this permitting reform legislation our country desperately needs is included in NDAA,” Manchin said.

NARUC has offered to participate in drafting streamlined permitting legislation that takes into consideration the issues that affect states, regions, and the policy directions the different states are pursuing.

“We are actively engaging with FERC on this issue,” Caron said. “The Federal-State Task Force on Electric Transmission is a prime example of how cooperative federalism works. I would urge Senator Manchin and any other members of Congress to attend a NARUC meeting or a Task Force meeting to better understand how states and federal agencies can work well together to identify problems and work toward finding solutions.”