On May 9, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a notice of intent to establish a process for designating “route-specific” National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (commonly referred to as “NIETCs,” pronounced \NIT-sees\)—setting in motion an anticipated shift in the balance of transmission permitting authority between the federal and state governments.
As we’ve previously noted, DOE has statutory authority to designate transmission-constrained or congested geographic areas, within which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) may issue permits for construction or modification of electric transmission facilities. No NIETCs are currently in effect. However, once designated, they will empower FERC to step in where states reject, delay, or obstruct interstate transmission development in the country’s most congested areas. Given that transmission permitting authority has traditionally been held by the states, NIETC designation could have broader effects with respect to the siting and permitting of transmission projects.
Along with its notice of intent, DOE issued a request for information soliciting comments to inform the department’s development of final guidelines, procedures, and evaluation criteria for the NIETC designation process. Comments will be due 45 days after the date of the request’s publication in the Federal Register (likely end of June) and can be submitted on www.regulations.gov. [Update: Comments must be received by June 29, 2023. DOE will host a webinar to discuss the notice of intent and request for information on May 17, 2023.]
DOE expects to issue final NIETC application guidance in late summer 2023, concurrent with its final National Transmission Needs Study, which is expected to advocate for increased interregional transmission infrastructure and likely will inform DOE’s ultimate NIETC designations (as discussed in a prior blog post).