Wednesday, April 26 (Washington, D.C.) — Americans for a Clean Energy Grid Executive Director Christina Hayes testified today before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the need to improve the siting and permitting process for high-capacity transmission. The following is a transcript of Hayes’ opening remarks to the panel. A copy of her full written testimony can be found here.
Executive Director, Americans for a Clean Energy Grid
Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing to Examine Opportunities to Improve Project Reviews
for a Cleaner and Stronger Economy
Good morning, Chairman Carper, Ranking Member Capito, and members of the Committee. Thank you for today’s opportunity to speak about the importance of improving project reviews to maintain a reliable grid and ensure a sustainable, high growth economy for all Americans.
I represent Americans for a Clean Energy Grid, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on the need to expand and modernize the transmission system. ACEG represents a diverse coalition — bringing together transmission and renewables developers of all stripes, as well as business, labor, consumer, and environmental groups.
Today I want to tell the story of two transmission lines, each spanning several hundred miles, capable of interconnecting between 2 and 4 GW of power, enough for approximately 750,000 homes. That is about the size of 2 Delawares — or a little more than one West Virginia.
Both lines require both federal and state permitting, as they cross federal, state, and private land. Both require an environmental impact statement.
One line takes more than 15 years to permit. It was first submitted for federal permitting in 2007 and hopes to be energized in a few more years.
The other takes much less time: all federal and state approvals will be completed in approximately five years.
The difference is in agency personnel, state laws, and how federal laws are implemented. You can just never tell, when you begin the transmission siting and permitting process, which set of circumstances you will run into.
Now compare that to the average time to permit high-capacity transmission in other countries around the world: a recent study showed that it takes 2-4 years in China; and 3-6 in India.
And it should take time to site and permit high-capacity, regionally significant transmission lines. They will last for decades — 50 years or more.
We should take the time to ensure that our infrastructure is well thought out, reflects a full understanding of the environmental and community impacts, and incorporates appropriate stakeholder input and engagement.
But building in the United States has slowed to a near standstill. According to a recent report, the U.S. dropped from installing an average of 1,700 new high-voltage transmission miles per year in the first half of the 2010s, to less than 700 miles per year in the second half of the decade.
We need more transmission to withstand the impacts of extreme weather, to reduce the economic impacts of big storms, and to keep the lights – and the heat – on for families.
Legacy transmission lines kept the lights on during recent storms Uri and Elliott, but we need more such lines — especially as we electrify more and more of our economy. Our TVs, our thermostats, our computers, our phones. Electricity is critical for nearly every aspect of modern life.
Moreover, we need to more than double our current rate of construction to have a chance at hitting our GHG reduction goals, not to mention realize the promise of a domestically-powered clean energy future.
To achieve these benefits, Congress should take action to address siting and permitting reform. Consistency and certainty in siting and permitting laws — throughout the development of a transmission project – is needed to encourage the private sector to move forward with these significant investments.
- High-capacity regionally-significant transmission should go through a unified federal siting and permitting authority, just as other major energy infrastructure does. A bright line threshold for unified federal siting and permitting authority should be clearly established, which, when including a single point of contact for environmental review, will provide for a comprehensive and legally durable siting and permitting process.
- Firm deadlines should be established, from beginning to end. If a transmission line is approved, the notice to proceed should be issued no more than 5 years after the application process began.
- Finally, any siting and permitting process must include early meaningful engagement with affected customers and communities, before the application and during the pre-filing process. Additionally, developers should consider support through community benefit agreements and/or revenue sharing. Mitigation beats litigation every time.
We need to build for the future — the grid we are going to have — not the grid we used to have. We need it for reliability, to access new low-cost domestic energy resources, and to meet customer needs.
We can’t do that at the current rate of construction, or with current siting and permitting laws and regulations.
On behalf of ACEG and our coalition, we stand ready to assist you in putting the right policies in place to ensure that America will have a cost-effective, reliable, modern grid to power a clean and strong economy. Thank you for considering my testimony; I look forward to your questions.