Friday, December 07, 2007
DOE Revisits National Interest Electric Transmission
In October, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) declared two large swaths of
the country “National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors” (NIETCs).
In these regions, the federal government would have the authority to overrule
local and state regulations and control and to grant permits for the
construction of transmission lines even over the objections of the state and
local governments. Needless to say, there was a dramatic uproar in the
regions declared NEITCs, and I wrote a four part examination of the Energy
Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) that gave the DOE this authority over at Scholars & Rogues.
In response to the uproar from the public and several states, the DOE has agreed to
re-open hearings on the designations of the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest
NEITCs. The Pennsylvania Utilities Commission even filed suit in
federal court to block implementation of the corridors, saying that they were
“beyond the scope intended by Congress (from link above)”. Given the
language of the EPAct itself, there is literally nothing to prevent the DOE from
doing exactly what it did, protestations about how “[t]he final northeastern
NIETC designation plan was not altered from a draft plan released earlier this
Revisiting the decisions is good politics for the DOE - it shows that listen
to public comment even though the EPAct doesn’t actually require them to do
so. But just because it’s revisited doesn’t mean that the decisions will
be scaled back or reversed. In fact, there’s no way to ensure that the DOE
won’t conclude that they need to expand the NIETCs due to updated information on
where power is required. The vague and overly-broad language of the EPAct
itself is the problem here, not the designations themselves. Had the EPAct
been better written, the DOE wouldn’t have been given overly broad powers in the
first place. And attacking the NIETCs in federal court will almost
certainly fail for the same reason - Congress gave the DOE this authority, and
nothing in the act itself places sufficient limitations on the DOE in how they
exercise their new authority.
The states and counties who have been designated part of one of the two
NIETCs would be best served if they lobbied their various federal legislators to
have the blanket authority given to the DOE scaled back, something that I have
yet to see evidence of.
If you’re interested reading my original series on the EPAct and National
Interest Electric Transmission Corridors, “Electric transmission lines, eminent
domain, and the consequences of vague and broadly worded laws,” see the links
Designation of National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors
Permitting in National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors
of Way and Exercising Eminent Domain
Way Out - Regional Transmission Siting Agencies; and Conclusions
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The controversy surrounding The Golden Compass has all but
I’m an avid reader and movie
watcher, and I enjoy the occasional escape into things that aren’t hard to read
or understand. This is why I’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter novels
and why, when it was suggested to me a number of years ago, I read the entire
His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. The first novel,
The Golden Compass, has been made into a movie that officially hits
the theaters this Friday. And, if the sheer volume of news about the
movie is any indication, it will be the blockbuster of the 2007 holiday season.
The reason is that a number of Christian groups (mostly Catholic) have
demanded that their adherents boycott the movie, and in so doing have given it a
massive amount of free news publicity. Have these people learned nothing?
Seriously, the best way to guarantee that people expose themselves to
something is to ban, boycott, or otherwise protest it. The more people who
hate something and want you to hate it too, the more other people want to figure
out what all the fuss is about. It’s human nature.
And so the Catholic League,
and at least one
Christian talk radio host have demanded that no-one see the movie.
News outlets as diverse as France’s AFP,
National Catholic Reporter, the
Arab Times Online, CNN,
and and The
LA Times are reporting about the controversy surrounding the movie
as much as they are about the movie itself. A huge number of commentaries,
mostly in support of the movie, have been put out by supporters including
several written by Catholics. Two of the better one’s I’ve read are Salon’s “A
moral ‘Compass’, written by Catholic mother Mary Elizabeth Williams, and The
Boston Globe’s “God in the dust” by Catholic theologian Donna Freitas.
I’ve read the books, and there’s definitely an anti-organized religion and
anti-authority theme to them. There’s also no question that the Authority
(the books’ version of God, albeit a false one of a sort - saying too much more
would give away too much of The Amber Spyglass) is the bad guy and that
he is dead by the end of the trilogy. But personally, I’m right there with
both Ms. Williams and Ms. Freitas - if your faith can’t stand up to being
questioned, it’s not much of a faith.
Unfortunately, while all this press has given The Golden Compass a
lot of free publicity, it’s also given the Catholic League a lot of free press
too, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Bill Donahue, the Catholic
League’s spokesman, has a history of being anti-woman, anti-gay, and generally
an over-wrought ultra-conservative blowhard (read a number of “good” Donahue
People like Mr. Donahue thrive on attention like this, and in the process get
more and more dangerous. But in the process they open themselves up to
eviscerating satire like that dished out by South Park in last season’s
Easter episode, “The Hare Club for Men”.
But as someone who had outright forgotten that The Golden Compass
was coming out this month, I’d like to thank the Catholic League et al for
reminding me that I wanted to see it on the big screen. And for this movie
I’ll find a sitter....