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State joins feds in corridor effort

Energy corridors should enhance markets for both fossil-based energy as well as wind and other renewables, as the federal government prepares for a wave of electrical transmission and pipeline construction across the West.

State officials took public comment Thursday in Casper on the federal government's West-Wide Energy Corridor programmatic environmental impact statement. Comments from the meeting will help the Freudenthal administration draft the state's formal comments to the West-Wide Energy Corridor office later this month.

Energy corridors are of particular interest in Wyoming as coal, natural gas and other energy industries hope to expand exports from the state. At the same time, conservationists worry that more power lines, pipelines and other facilities will fragment wildlife habitat, and landowners worry about a growing use of eminent domain by both the government and private companies.

Scott Powers, project manager for the West-Wide Energy Corridor effort, said Wyoming seems to be more engaged in the process than any other of the 11 Western states involved. That's important, because when it comes to issues related to private lands next to federal lands, federal land managers will rely heavily on input from the states and communities within the states.

"This is a very gray area for us, and frankly, we're hoping to get a lot of feedback from the governors... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

State officials took public comment Thursday in Casper on the federal government's West-Wide Energy Corridor programmatic environmental impact statement. Comments from the meeting will help the Freudenthal administration draft the state's formal comments to the West-Wide Energy Corridor office later this month.

Energy corridors are of particular interest in Wyoming as coal, natural gas and other energy industries hope to expand exports from the state. At the same time, conservationists worry that more power lines, pipelines and other facilities will fragment wildlife habitat, and landowners worry about a growing use of eminent domain by both the government and private companies.

Scott Powers, project manager for the West-Wide Energy Corridor effort, said Wyoming seems to be more engaged in the process than any other of the 11 Western states involved. That's important, because when it comes to issues related to private lands next to federal lands, federal land managers will rely heavily on input from the states and communities within the states.

"This is a very gray area for us, and frankly, we're hoping to get a lot of feedback from the governors and just haven't," Powers said.

The aim of the energy corridor effort is to identify existing power line and pipeline routes in anticipation of new construction to beef up the Western electrical grid and other energy delivery systems throughout the West.

By completing a programmatic environmental impact statement, the federal government hopes to speed up regulatory permitting requirements for wire and pipeline projects that cross national forests and other public lands -- a particular concern in Wyoming where the federal government manages more than half of the land.

Rick Robitaille, spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum, said that as an energy company, Anadarko supports expanding Wyoming's energy infrastructure. But the company is also concerned about how corridors might affect private property.

Anadarko owns a huge swath of land and mineral rights along the Interstate 80 corridor known as the "land-grant strip" -- an area that is checkerboarded with federal ownership and identified as a major energy corridor for future growth.

"If that would limit (mineral development), we would be very, very concerned," Robitaille said.

A preliminary map identifying some potential energy corridors in Wyoming indicate I-80 could see more power lines and pipelines in the future. Several people at Thursday's meeting noted that may help develop wind power across southern Wyoming -- one of the prime areas of the nation for potential wind development.

Scott said Wyoming's ambitions to increase energy exports and its checkerboard nature of surface ownership make it a prime focus of the West-Wide Energy Corridor effort.

"Wyoming is a perfect case-study," Powers said. "If Wyoming can help us address this here, then we could use it as a template in other areas."

Other recommendations offered to federal and state officials regarding energy corridors included:

* Wyoming Infrastructure Authority: Locations should take into account five electrical transmission efforts the state is already working on, including TOT3 in eastern Wyoming to the Colorado Front Range, a major connection to Arizona and the Wyoming-to-California Frontier Line project.

* Wyoming Outdoor Council: Corridor widths should be as narrow as possible, avoid protected areas and maximize use of existing easements along highways and other transportation routes.

Energy reporter Dustin Bleizeffer can be reached at (307) 682-3388 or dustin.bleizeffer@casperstartribune.net.


Source: http://www.jacksonholestart...

JUL 7 2006
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