On Jan. 14, the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management signed a record of decision amending 92 use plans in support of designating more than 6,000 miles of energy transport corridors on federal parcels in 11 western States.
The decision was based on analyses presented in the final programmatic environmental impact statement released last November by the BLM and along with departments of energy, agriculture and defense as part of the federal agencies' work to implement section 368 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.
The environmental impact statement identified corridors to facilitate future siting of oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines, renewable energy development projects and electricity transmission as well as distribution facilities to meet the western region's increasing energy demands while mitigating potential harmful effects to the environment, indicated the federal agencies.
"The designation of these corridors represents a significant step in addressing some of the critical energy infrastructure issues in the West, "said James Caswell, BLM director. "The cooperative efforts of the involved agencies to establish pathways for future pipelines and long-distance electrical transmission lines will help relieve congestion, improve reliability and enhance the national electric grid."
Energy transport corridors are agency-preferred locations where pipelines and transmission lines may be sited and constructed in the future.
Future use of the corridors should reduce the proliferation of rights of way across the landscape and minimize the environmental footprint from development, pointed out the BLM.
The corridors were sited through the programmatic environmental impact statement using a four-step process that identified a number of important lands and resources to be avoided to the fullest extent possible.
The agencies examined factors that constrain where a network of energy transport corridors could be located.
The factors included topographical, environmental and regulatory constraints as well as the overall suitability of particular lands to support development and operation of energy transport infrastructure.
In some cases, the corridors intersect or approach sensitive lands or resources.
Most often, the intersections follow existing infrastructure like highways, transmission or pipelines, noted the federal agency.
Eighty-two percent or approximately 5,000 mile of the corridors are located on BLM managed lands. Sixteen percent are on U.S. Forest Service lands. The remaining segments are on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service or by the defense department.
The programmatic environmental impact statement developed and evaluated a number of interagency procedures to help ensure that transport projects are planned, implemented and operated in a manner that protects environmental resources, noted the federal agency.
Individual projects proposed for the corridors will undergo specific environmental analysis before being granted permits or rights of way.
The record of decision documents extensive public involvement in the preparation of the environmental impact statement.
The federal agencies' efforts to reach stakeholders and constituents started in 2005.
The efforts included issuing formal notices, conducting scoping and public meetings, drafting preliminary maps and scheduling a 90-day comment period on the draft programmatic environmental impact statement, concluded the federal agencies.
Review copies of the record of decision are available to interested Carbon County residents at libraries and agency regional and field offices.