If It’s Broke, Fix It: Federal Regulation of Electrical Interstate Transmission Lines

The current electrical transmission line regulatory system is broken, preventing the nation from expanding the electricity grid to keep up with growing energy consumption. The current regulatory scheme reserves to the states siting authority over where new lines are constructed, which often hinders project development because interstate lines are not seen as good for the state’s own citizens. Natural gas does not suffer the same infirmity, because it has been under federal control since the Natural Gas Act of 1938. This Note traces the history of the regulation of the two energy delivery systems—beginning with local control over local utilities early in their development—to today’s complex interstate systems. Then this Note analyzes three possible regulatory approaches: (1) state control; (2) an intermediate solution that retains state power to regulate line siting from each state’s internal energy sources to its internal load centers, but allocates to the federal government the power to construct interstate lines from plentiful energy sources to distant load centers; and (3) a federal system mirroring the system for siting natural gas pipelines. Finally, this Note concludes that only a federal regulatory system modeled on the natural gas pipeline regulations is adequate to keep up with growing energy demand.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.