The federal government took steps recently to speed up the approval process for electricity transmission lines. Or at least, to speed up the permitting on federal lands. An agreement between the White House and eight federal agencies puts one agency in charge of the cumbersome process of approving transmission corridor permits — a change from the traditional multi-agency hurdle that transmission developers have had to maneuver. This is good for our manufacturers — streamlining the cumbersome permitting process for transmission lines is one way to help bring life back to the struggling U.S. manufacturing sector.
And we'd like to think we had something to do with this change of heart. NEMA CEO Evan Gaddis has discussed this topic with FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher, and recently dropped a note on the subject to the new manufacturing czar, Ron Bloom.
The federal agency agreement doesn't resolve the challenge of siting transmission lines on private lands, but it's a huge step in the right direction. And it's sign that the administration understands the importance of this issue — especially if the Obama administration wants to connect renewable energy sources (like wind and solar) to the electricity grid. Efforts to hook up renewable energy to the grid have been delayed and blocked by environmental groups and community activists, with the result that it has taken years to move a permit through the process.
For now, the permitting process should move more smoothly for lines that cut across federal lands. Next stop: Streamlining the process for private lands.