Thursday, July 19, 2007

Who should decide?

Who should decide which route a power line should go in your community?
(a) Local residents?
(b) State policy makers?
(c) A federal agency?

Well, according to the supposedly "small government, no regulation" Bush administration, the correct answer is "C". (Link to story.)

The scenic vista at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, following the proposed implementation of the Mid-Atlantic NEITC. (Click on photo for larger image.)

With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, federal regulators can order that massive high-powered transmission lines be built in local areas despite local and state opposition. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy is broadly using the law to propose a huge Mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NEITC) and another Southwest NEITC.

These two large swaths of land cover nearly all of the state of West Virginia (38 counties) and contains MILLIONS of acres of wildlife refuges, cemeteries, national seashores, protected wilderness, national parks and other types of protected land.

The "national interest" corridors are deemed necessary to meet the growing power demands in the northeast and elsewhere. The power line infrastructure in these congested areas is reportedly inadequate. However, rather than building the transmission lines there, they plan to use an eminent domain approach to put the lines in rural and wilderness areas.

So despite whether local residents agree or not, the power needs of those people living in cities from Washington D.C. to New York City take precedent. I'm not sure how this approach coincides with conservatives' supposed love for state's rights and Federalism, but apparently it does.

Under the proposal, high-powered transmission lines (these aren't little telephone poles) can even be placed in state and federally protected lands and parks from the Gettysburg Battlefield to Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. All without regard to the opinions of local residents or even state lawmakers.

In my opinion, this is just another example of big business finding that it's easier to get what they want by influencing the White House, Congress and federal agencies than by developing responsible solutions that address local concerns.

Not to mention that those same "conservative" policy makers who bow down to the Gods of the "free market" and object to any regulations for corporate operations or workplace safety are more than happy to oblige federal regulation schemes like this one where the government ignores the will of the people in order to help corporate interests. Yet, when regulators propose rules to enhance worker safety, they are interfering with the almighty "free market". Once again, I don't get it.

I guess the idea of small government only applies when it suits them. I keep forgetting that when government programs help those in poverty, it's deemed welfare, but when it helps Fortune 500 companies then it's "Economic Development".

As for the NEITC, unfortunately the comment period for the proposed Mid-Atlantic Corridor expired earlier this month, but you can read submitted comments and follow recent developments through the U.S. Department of Energy NEITC website. Hopefully, we have not heard the end of the opposition to this scheme proposal.

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