States have historically regulated the construction and siting of transmission lines through state utility regulators. State statutes provide the legal parameters that both support and restrict a State utility commission’s actions when considering interstate transmission siting. Language governing interstate transmission siting varies throughout the country.
In 2005, the Energy Policy Act (EPAct 2005) gave the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unprecedented authority in electric transmission siting through the establishment of "National Interest" Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) and the use of Federal backstop siting authority through its 2006 Congestion Study. With the designation of NIETCs, the federal government was given the unprecedented ability to usurp state regulatory powers in transmission siting, and condemn lands for transmission projects.
In 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the DOE's Congestion Study and the transmission corridors. "As a result of the decision in California Wilderness, the two areas that DOE designated as NEITCs [are] no longer available for fast-tracked transmission line development. Furthermore, federal eminent domain power is no longer available to develop these projects."1 The Pennsylvnia Land Trust Association was a petitioner in this case.
1 Bahrad Sokhansanj. "Ninth Circuit Vacates NIETC Designation in CA Wilderness v. Dept of Energy". Climate Law Blog. February 3, 2011. Online at http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2011/02/03/ninth-circuit-vacates-nietc-designations-in-calif-wilderness-coalition-v-dept-of-energy/.