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High-voltage transmission lines form the backbone of electricity systems. Transmission lines are designed to carry large amounts of electricity at high voltages, typically 115 to 500 kilovolts (kV), across long distances. Networks of transmission lines transfer electricity from power plants or other interconnections to substations. At substations, the high-voltage electricity is “stepped down” to a lower voltage, which can be carried via lower-voltage distribution lines to residential, business, and governmental consumers.

The construction and operation of high-voltage transmission lines are regulated by a variety of state and federal agencies and regulations. In addition to electrical system regulations, transmission lines are subject to environmental laws and regulations at the state and federal levels. Local zoning regulations and land use plans may also govern the location of high-voltage transmission lines within counties and cities.

Current Topics in Transmission

West-wide Energy Corridor Programmatic EIS

The West-wide Energy Corridor Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) evaluates potential impacts associated with the proposed action to designate corridors on federal land in 11 Western States (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) for oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities.

Based upon the information and analyses developed in this PEIS, the agencies issuing the PEIS would amend their respective land use plans by designating a series of energy corridors effective upon signing of the Record(s) of Decision.

Integrated, Interagency Pre-Application (IIP) Process

The purpose of the proposed IIP Process is to establish a coordinated series of meetings and other actions that would take place prior to a Federal agency accepting a high-voltage transmission line application or taking other action that would trigger Federal review, permitting, and consultation or other requirements, such as those required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, and Sections 7 and 10 of the Endangered Species Act.

Integrated Rapid Response Team for Transmission

The Obama Administration is focused on building the infrastructure needed to support a clean energy economy because the countries that lead in clean energy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy. Electric transmission projects are one specific area where the Administration is acting to catalyze the transition to a clean energy economy. Building greater transmission infrastructure will facilitate, among other things, increased reliability, the greater integration of renewable sources of electricity into the grid; will accommodate a growing number of electric vehicles on America’s roads; and will reduce the need for new power plants.

E-Trans: Federal Permitting Transmission Tracking System

In October of 2009, nine Federal entities including, the Department of Energy (DOE), the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Department of Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) increasing their coordination to expedite and simplify building of transmission lines on Federal lands.


Transmission 101

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PPT outlining the basics of the transmission system in the U.S.

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