Legislation introduced in House to speed up transmission siting, planning and permitting process

Published on July 20, 2023 by Chris Galford

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Criticizing jurisdictional, resource, communication and flubbed application obstacles to siting, planning and permitting efforts, U.S. Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA), Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) recently introduced House legislation to overhaul transmission permitting.

The bill, H.R.4689, serves as companion legislation to the Facilitating America’s Siting of Transmission and Electric Reliability (FASTER) Act, introduced by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) last month. According to Peters, the bill was spurred by the climate crisis, which demands interregional transmission development move faster than ever, without sacrificing environmental protections.

“No is the second-best outcome for a project. The worst outcome is waiting over a decade for an answer until a project is canceled,” Peters said of the current situation.

The FASTER Act seeks to undo such negative outcomes by granting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) siting authority and centering it as the lead agency for coordination with state, local and federal authorizations for both National Interest Electric Transmission Facilities and designations from the Department of Energy (DOE) approving route proposals as National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. FERC would be given a time limit of three years to approve or deny applications from initial pre-filing to notice-to-proceed.

At the same time, it would incentivize communities and project sponsors to negotiate enforceable Community Benefits Agreements. For the DOE’s $760 million Transmission Siting and Economic Development Grant program, the application process would be streamlined for those that negotiate such an agreement, and be expanded into public-private partnerships. Some $532 million from that program would be directed to fund economic development initiatives and to support communities most impacted by development, and another $228 million would go to state and county siting activities.

“The FASTER Act will enact a proactive and forward-thinking approach to address our nation’s energy needs,” Veasey said. “This legislation paves the way for a more efficient 21st-century grid by streamlining the decision-making process and incorporating lessons from successful transmission projects. The legislation will also spur job creation across our country by enabling us to meet our climate goals while bolstering access to affordable and reliable electricity for people like my constituents who are all too familiar with an outdated grid.”

The legislation has been backed by numerous elements of the power industry, unions and environmental organizations, including the National Association of Counties (NACo), Americans for a Clean Energy Grid (ACEG), Clean Energy Buyers Association (CEBA) and Jobs to Move America among them.