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June 26 -- Comment period extended through July 31, 2023. https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-13429
 
May 15 -- The U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE” or the “Department”) Grid Deployment Office (“GDO”) issues this Notice of Intent (“NOI”) to establish a process to designate “route-specific” National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (“NIETCs,” pronounced \NIT-sees\). DOE intends to invite interested entities to propose for designation as a NIETC a potential route where one or more potential transmission projects could be located within a geographic area where the Department has identified transmission need(s). DOE intends to develop final guidelines and procedures for interested entities to propose that DOE designate a NIETC. In this NOI, DOE identifies certain key program design elements that it believes should form the basis of an applicant-driven, route-specific process to designate NIETCs. DOE seeks comments from the public and interested parties on these identified program elements and any additional program elements that should be included to assist in developing final guidelines, procedures, and evaluation criteria for the applicant-driven, route-specific NIETC designation process. Written comments and information are requested on or before June 29, 2023.

Pursuant to section 216 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) (16 U.S.C. 824p), the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE” or the “Department”) Grid Deployment Office (“GDO”) is issuing this Notice of Intent (“NOI”) to establish a process to designate “route-specific” National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (“NIETCs,” pronounced \NIT-sees\). Through this process, DOE intends to invite interested entities to propose for designation as a NIETC a potential route where one or more potential transmission projects could be located within a geographic area where the Department has identified transmission need(s) (i.e., present or expected electric transmission capacity constraints or congestion that adversely affects consumers) and where the Department has made other statutory findings. Interested entities will be required to provide information about the potential route necessary to fulfill the statutory criteria for designation, as well as certain environmental information about the potential route to facilitate DOE's ability to efficiently complete its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).

DOE is also issuing a Request for Information (“RFI”) with this NOI to gather input to inform the development of future application guidance and procedures for entities seeking to propose a route as a NIETC, as well as the development of information DOE will request in order to evaluate proposals. DOE plans to issue final application guidance concurrent with the finalization of the National Transmission Needs Study (“Needs Study”), anticipated to be released in late summer of 2023.

DOE anticipates that, generally, routes proposed for potential designation as a NIETC may be associated with specific transmission projects under active development, meaning that a potential applicant has progressed beyond the preliminary concept and has begun actively routing the project and engaging in community and landowner outreach, land surveys, or initiation of environmental compliance work. As such, DOE intends to designate NIETCs that are “route-specific,” meaning they encompass narrow areas that are under consideration for the location of specific potential project(s), and which are sufficient for the construction, maintenance, and safe operation thereof in accordance with any applicable regulatory requirements. Designation of a NIETC does not constitute selection of or a preference for a specific transmission project for financial, siting, or industry planning purposes; selection for these other purposes will continue to occur through established planning and regulatory processes.

DOE is considering this process for designating NIETCs in recognition of the fact that such designations would occur in areas experiencing the greatest need for immediate transmission development and would unlock new financing and regulatory tools to spur investment in those areas. The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”) and Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) contain new public-private partnership and loan authorities that DOE can use to spur construction of transmission projects in NIETCs. In addition, section 216(b) of the FPA, as amended by the IIJA, allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) to issue permits to site transmission facilities within NIETCs when certain statutory conditions are met.

NIETCs may encompass areas where multiple transmission projects could be located, providing an opportunity to coordinate environmental reviews and improve the efficiency and timeliness of permitting of these projects. DOE will, as appropriate, consult from an early stage with Federal, Tribal, State, and local authorities responsible for transmission siting and/or permitting on potential NIETC designation to develop appropriate and efficient timelines for decision-making. Where projects in NIETCs indicate an intention to seek siting permits from FERC under section 216(b) of the FPA, DOE intends to coordinate with FERC to the maximum extent practicable to avoid redundancy and promote efficiency in environmental reviews.

DOE intends to develop final guidelines and procedures for interested entities to propose that DOE designate a NIETC. In this NOI, DOE identifies certain key program design elements that it believes should form the basis of an applicant-driven, route-specific process to designate NIETCs. In the accompanying RFI, DOE seeks comments from the public and interested parties on these identified program elements and any additional program elements that should be included to assist in developing final guidelines, procedures, and evaluation criteria for the applicant-driven, route-specific NIETC designation process.

A reliable and resilient electric transmission system is essential to the Nation's economic, energy, and national security. Additional transmission capacity is necessary to meet the challenges of more frequent extreme weather and other disruptive events, provide access to diverse sources of clean electricity, and meet new electricity demands driven by electrification of end-use sectors like transportation and industry.

The Administration has set national goals to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in 2030 and to reach net zero emissions by 2050. These goals include a transition to a 100% clean electric power sector by 2035, which would require an increase in transmission system capacity estimated to total between 1.3 to 2.9 times the amount of existing transmission capacity. Recent independent analysis has also found that transmission systems may need to expand by 60 percent by 2030, and may need to triple by 2050, to deliver clean electricity to consumers. The proliferation of State and local clean energy standards and goals and private-sector clean energy purchase commitments further underscores the Nation's need for additional transmission infrastructure. The incorporation of clean energy resources facilitated by additional transmission development will also expand energy resource diversity, promote resilience and reliability of the Nation's electricity grid, and lower costs to consumers by adding new low cost electricity supply.

Finally, the recently enacted IIJA and IRA together make significant investments in clean energy manufacturing and generation, and the electrification of homes, businesses, and vehicles. The benefit of those investments will not be realized fully unless the United States can quickly expand enabling electric transmission infrastructure.

Designation of NIETCs is one of many tools that DOE has available to facilitate timely development of transmission infrastructure to meet these needs. As discussed in more detail below, designation of NIETCs can assist in focusing commercial facilitation, signal opportunities for beneficial development to transmission planning entities, and unlock siting and permitting tools for transmission projects in identified areas where present or expected future congestion is negatively impacting consumers.
 
DOE seeks comments from all interested stakeholders regarding all of the proposed elements of DOE's anticipated approach to implementing an applicant-driven, route-specific NIETC designation process described in the NOI above.

Further, in keeping with the Administration's goals, and as an agency whose mission is to help strengthen our country's energy prosperity, the Department of Energy strongly supports investments that create and retain good-paying jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union, the incorporation of strong labor standards, and high-road workforce development, especially registered apprenticeship and quality pre-apprenticeship. Respondents to this RFI are encouraged to include information about how the NIETC designation process can best support these goals.

In addition, DOE seeks comments on the following specific questions: . . .
 
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-10321 [8 pages]

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