Energy transmission corridors through Utah, West up for review

Amy Joi O’Donoghue –¬†Deseret News

As an energy renaissance grips the nation with an unprecedented oil boom and renewable energy projects coming online, the federal government is looking to shore up key corridors to keep the lights turned on and furnaces firing.

It is not an easy prospect. The challenges include litigation over damage to the environment and sensitive species, access for renewable energy power generators, updates to an aging infrastructure and a labyrinth of new pipelines to convey oil and natural gas.

The federal government is engaged in a comprehensive review and beginning a wholesale revisit of corridors in 11 Western states, including Utah.

More than 130 corridors were designated in 2009, covering 6,000 miles and an estimated 3 million acres of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Environmental groups that same year challenged the West-wide Energy Corridor Plan, launching concerns over the so-called Section 368 corridors because routes traversed sensitive or iconic landscapes or posed risks to threatened or endangered species.

In Utah, groups said routes were too close to the boundary of Arches National Park and uncomfortably close to the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area.

The routes, too, failed to provide sufficient consideration for renewable energy, such as wind and solar resources, according to the legal challenges.

A subsequent settlement agreement brought the Forest Service, BLM and U.S. Department of Energy to the table again to seek the public’s input on ensuring the appropriate designations for the most effective but least damaging corridors. ¬†(…)

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