Corridor routes available for public comment
Comments due Feb. 14
Cheyenne – The Department of Energy, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service are gathering comments on their Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that takes in federal lands in 11 western states including Wyoming.
As directed by Congress in Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy and the Interior are proposing to designate corridors on Federal land for locating future oil, natural gas and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure in the West. These corridors would be the agency-preferred locations where pipelines and transmission lines may be sited and built in the future.
Designating such corridors would improve inter-agency coordination in reviewing and approving energy transport projects proposed for Federal lands, and reduce environmental effects and conflicts with other uses of Federal lands. Individual projects proposed for these corridors would undergo further, project-specific environmental analysis before being granted permits or rights-of-way.
Tamara Gertsch, a Realty Officer with BLM’s Wyoming office in Cheyenne, says the proposals don’t take in private lands. She says breaks in the lines depicting proposed routes indicate where private lands occur. “We’re talking about federal lands,” she says.
“The average we’re talking about is 3,500 feet,” says Gertsch of the corridor width although it does vary based on terrain. “They’ll basically be used for the transportation of energy, whether it’s a pipeline or a transmission line.” She also notes that outlining of the corridor doesn’t prevent companies from looking to locate projects in other areas.
Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Director, has suggested those who own the lands where the gaps occur consider forming a landowner association. Such a measure, he says, could enhance their negotiating ability.
“Energy corridors are a mixed blessing,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “From a broad perspective, it’s better to have a corridor than to have transmission lines and pipelines scattered all over. On the other hand, it’s a tremendous burden to individual landowners.”
“There should be some provision where they could get some compensation beyond the value of individual pipelines,” says Magagna. “There’s a long-term cumulative impact that’s the result of that concentration that’s being created by a federal action. I would make the case that above what the individual companies pay, there should be some way to look at federal compensation for landowners who’ve been put in the bull’s-eye of the corridors.” Magagna says devaluation of land could occur whether or not a transmission or pipeline comes through the area.
Corridors on the maps released by BLM include two distinct routes in Wyoming. One begins in Casper, runs towards Shoshoni and continues through the Big Horn Basin. Another begins south of Casper, stretches south to Rawlins and runs west through Rock Springs, south of Kemmerer and on into Utah. A leg off the line runs south into Colorado through the Baggs area.
While it depends on how the project progresses, Gertsch says the corridor designation process could be completed by later this year. She says the corridors are intended to save time for those building infrastructure. “It would reduce the amount of time for a supplemental EIS. The other goal is to have one set of Best Management Practices for all the agencies.”
Additional information, including maps, can be found online at http://corridoreis.anl.gov. Comments can be mailed to Westwide Corridor DEIS; Argonne National Laboratory; 9700 S. Cass Ave., Bldg. 900, Mail Stop 4; Argonne, IL 60439 or faxed to 866-542-5904. Those looking to submit their comments electronically can do so at the project website listed above. All comments must be received by February 14, 2008 to receive full consideration.