The Obama administration announced Friday it would use broad federal powers to push forward a major electric transmission project to move wind energy eastward from Oklahoma via Arkansas. The announcement has Republicans fuming.
Arkansas Republicans Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton led the opposition Friday after the Energy Department made its announcement, saying the decision marks a new era of executive overreach by the administration.
“Today marks a new page in an era of unprecedented executive overreach as the Department of Energy seeks to usurp the will of Arkansans and form a partnership with a private company – the same private company previously denied rights to operate in our state by the Arkansas Public Service Commission,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement, along with several House lawmakers.
The Energy Department said Friday that it would use its authority to move ahead with Clean Line Energy Partners to build a nearly 700-mile-long high voltage line, called the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project, to bring renewable energy from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Southeast.
“Building modern transmission that delivers renewable energy to more homes and businesses will create jobs, cut carbon emissions, and enhance the reliability of our grid,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Friday.
Observers say the project would help along the president’s far-reaching regulations addressing climate change, which many scientists blame on increased greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Renewable energy would act to slow the heating of the planet’s atmosphere from the emissions.
“Despite years of pushback on the local level and continuous communications between our delegation and Secretary Moniz, DOE has decided to forgo the will of the Natural State and take over the historic ability of state-level transmission control through this announcement,” they said.
New transmission lines are critical to making renewable energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Without them, wind turbines become stranded assets with no way of moving the electricity they produce to cities and states where it can be consumed.
But transmission lines are increasingly hard to site and can take decades to build.
The lawmakers say the agency will use the authority it was granted under the 2005 energy law to promote the development of long stretches of transmission lines with a private sector partner. This marks the first use of the authority in the ten years since it was granted, the agency said.
The GOP senators said the administration must lay out all the details of how it chooses to move forward with this authority before it can proceed. Specific conditions “must be met before this authority is used, and we expect the Department to release all details of their review so that our staff and Congressional investigators will be able to continue the process of oversight,” the lawmakers add.
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