Jan | Feb 2014


Ready to Power Up

Transmission Line Siting Compact Ready for State Consideration

By Jennifer Ginn, CSG Associate Editor
A new transmission line siting compact developed by The Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts is ready to be introduced in state legislatures across the country.
The compact sets timelines for when action must be taken on proposed interstate transmission lines, such as when public hearings and evidentiary hearings must be held. Three states must adopt the compact to trigger it, but nine states must adopt it to begin commission business, such as creating rules.
The compact will be in effect only if the proposed transmission line runs through at least three states that also are members of the compact. If a state is a member of the compact but the proposed line does not run through that state, it will not be involved with the project.
“All we’re doing is saying when you have states adopt the compact, it applies only to their immediate needs,” said Kansas Rep. Tom Sloan, co-chair of the compact’s national advisory panel. “You don’t have any costs, don’t have any responsibilities if the line is outside your area.”
The need for the compact has grown as the utility industry has grown from a local to a state and, now, a regional issue, said Bill Smith, executive director of the Organization of MISO States. The nonprofit organization coordinates regulatory oversight among states in the Midwest Independent System Operator Inc.
About 15 years ago, he said, Midwestern states began thinking of energy as a regional issue. That idea has only grown over the years.
“As we’ve watched national attention be focused on regional changes in the industry,” he said, “the industry is becoming more regional in geography as opposed to the utility-by-utility islands throughout the country.
“As regions knit together individual utility systems, trying to change the planning process for transmission and generation into a regional viewpoint has been something we have worked on and will continue to be something we need to work on.”
Sloan agreed the changing nature of the utility industry means states must also change, and the compact recognizes that.
“It provides, I think, the optimum opportunity for state siting commissions to recognize we are dealing with a world of regional and national interests,” he said. “Most of the time, we’re happy to confine ourselves to make decisions affecting people inside the borders of our states. When we’re talking energy policy, we’re talking about a much larger animal.”
Learn more about CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts at www.csg.org/NCIC.