Sen. Whitehouse, Rep. Quigley introduce bill to ease process of building transmission lines

Published on March 24, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

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U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) are sponsoring a bill that would improve the process of building long range high voltage transmission lines.

Their bill, the Streamlining Interstate Transmission of Electricity (SITE) Act, would establish a new federal siting authority at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to ease the process of constructing these long range, inter-regional high voltage transmission lines. The lawmakers said new transmission lines are needed to get more renewable energy to homes and businesses.

“If we don’t build more long-range transmission lines, much of the low-cost clean energy that is coming online will simply not be able to get to the homes and businesses that need it. Our SITE Act would increase grid reliability, upgrade the nation’s creaky grid infrastructure, and lower emissions while responsibly balancing local needs and preferences,” Whitehouse said.

The lawmakers point out that the construction of new long range transmission lines is facing significant hurdles due to the complex and intensive coordination required between states, federal agencies, regulators, industry, and local landowners. This newly proposed siting authority created by the SITE Act would eliminate some of those barriers for transmission lines that cross multiple states. In addition, the SITE Act would protect landowners by providing eminent domain authority under the Federal Power Act for these transmission lines.

“Without increasing transmission capacity, we will be unable to end our reliance on fossil fuels and bring clean, renewable energy sources online. I am reintroducing the SITE Act to eliminate barriers that have long stood in our way,” Quigley said. “By establishing a new federal siting authority for interregional transmission projects, we can streamline the approval process and guarantee that the clean energy investments made in the Inflation Reduction Act benefit Americans in every part of the country. Preparing our electric grid for the clean energy future cannot be postponed. We must prioritize this endeavor to safeguard our clean energy future.”

The lawmakers said that the nation must double the rate of transmission builds, otherwise, the United States could lose up to 80 percent of the Inflation Reduction Act’s emissions reduction benefits.

The Senate version of the bill, S. 946, is cosponsored by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). U.S. Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Sean Casten (D-IL) cosponsor the House version.

“We commend Senator Whitehouse for introducing the SITE Act, which directly takes on the need to expand the nation’s transmission infrastructure to address the climate crisis. Studies show that to achieve the potential of the Inflation Reduction Act and meet our greenhouse emission targets, we need to more than double the historical rate of siting new transmission. An expanded transmission system would also enhance the reliability of our grid, reducing dangerous electricity outages during increasingly frequent severe weather events, and access inexpensive renewable resources that lower costs for electricity consumers,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy.