The U.S. Energy Department decided Tuesday to designate 10 counties in Arizona and Southern California as a “national interest electric transmission corridor,” opening the possibility of more power lines being built between Arizona and California.
The designation had been opposed by the Arizona Corporation Commission, which said Arizona would have to bear cost and pollution burdens to produce more electricity for Californians, who are unwilling to build sufficient power plants in their own state.
But federal officials said the corridor designation is needed to prevent blackouts in an area with energy-grid congestion.
The department also approved a mid-Atlantic corridor running from the Washington, D.C. area north to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York and extending west to Ohio. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the corridors should prompt regional authorities to “identify solutions and take prompt action” to keep “energy flowing to all Americans.”
If state officials don’t act, however, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 allows federal regulators to approve new transmission towers and lines within the corridors, overriding local regulators who often respond to local groups opposing their construction.
Earlier this year the Arizona Corporation Commission rejected a request by the Southern California Edison Co. to build a line between the Palo Verde area west of Phoenix and Southern California.