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Obama Admin to Unveil Transmission Pilot Projects


10/5/2011 10:46 AM

Administration officials today will announce steps to speed up the construction of "key transmission facilities" they say will create thousands of jobs while modernizing the nation's electric grid.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley, and senior adviser to the secretary of Energy Lauren Azar will outline pilot projects to accelerate federal permitting at 11:30 a.m.

The projects will "create thousands of construction and operations jobs, and help to transform the Nation's electric system into a modern, 21st century grid that is safer, more secure, and gives consumers more choices about their energy," according to a joint press release.

Permitting has become a focus of the Obama administration as officials attempt to cut down on the red tape that slows efforts to update the grid and integrate new energy technologies.

In 2009, nine agencies signed a memorandum of understanding to break down barriers for building transmission lines on federal lands. The MOU aimed to streamline the review process, establishing a consolidated environmental review and a single point-of-contact for federal authorizations, among other things.

Earlier this year, officials created a Rapid Response Team for Transmission to improve federal coordination and target timely reviews for transmission lines. In a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in June, Sutley said the aim was to make sure "people have a place to go if they are running into problems and running into hang-ups in getting answers from the agencies."

But today's announcement is also an opportunity for officials to tout President Obama's American Jobs Act, a $447 billion stimulus that would provide about $50 billion in infrastructure investments.

"Through its immediate investments in infrastructure and a bipartisan National Infrastructure Bank, the American Jobs Act will help to modernize roads, rail, airports, energy systems, and waterways while putting hundreds of thousands of workers back on the job across the country," officials wrote in the joint release. "These investments would not only put people to work now, but also yield lasting benefits for the economy, increasing growth in the long run."

Source: Emily Yehle, E&E reporter