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A revision to our energy future

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Neil LaRubbio | Jul 10, 2012 06:00 AM

Last week, environmentalists settled an agreement with federal agencies over a Bush-era energy management plan,  and a U.S. District Court in San Francisco is set to sign off on the agreement. Plaintiffs, including the Center for Biological Diversity, had sued federal agencies over a proposed energy pipeline and power network, part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which prescribed a network of oil, gas, hydrogen and electricity lines across federal lands in 11 Western states known as the West-wide Energy Corridor. That network intended to guide the future of energy development and distribution corridors. Environmentalists objected to the plan’s favoritism toward coal or other fossil-fuel power sources, saying it ignored  the potential to connect solar, wind or geothermal plants to the grid. And to make matters worse, some of the planned energy corridors also trampled  over important fossil grounds.

Now, an interagency working group will review existing corridor plans and potentially draw new ones that take into account environmental impacts and potential for renewable energy production. Through the agreement, federal agencies, including the Forest Service, BLM and Department of Energy must ensure that environmental assessments on corridors are completed and that the public is involved -- requirements that were absent from the original Act. This is a map of the proposed corridors

Proposed Corridors

The original corridor map would have affected national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, proposed wilderness and threatened or endangered species habitat across the West.

One such area, Senator Harry Reid’s newly proposed Tule Springs Fossil Bed National Monument, had the potential for more power lines and pipelines to run through the 23,000-acre area. Proponents for the new monument hope that the corridor agreement will prevent Nevada Energy from building any more power lines near the delicate landscape. Other sensitive places, like Arches National Park and a corridor in Washington that crosses the Pacific Crest Trail, might also benefit from the higher level of environmental review.

Federal agencies will have a year to review their existing corridors to decide whether they need revision. From there, they’ll be responsible for periodic reviews to decide whether to revise, delete or add new corridors.

Map provided by Argonne National Laboratory.

Neil LaRubbio is an intern at High Country News.

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