Reconstituting the federalism battle in energy transportation

Alexandra B. Klass, Jim Rossi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This Article explores the growing federalism tensions arising from efforts to expand the nation's energy transportation infrastructure-the electric transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, natural gas import and export terminals, and related facilities that power the nation. It examines two controversial energy transport projects for the purpose of evaluating current barriers to more comprehensive energy infrastructure planning and implementation. The first project is the Plains & Eastern Clean Line-an interstate electric transmission line project designed to transport wind energy resources across several south-central states. The second project is the Constitution Pipeline-a natural gas pipeline designed to transport new natural gas resources from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania to New York. The federal-state tensions associated with these projects highlight how a fixation on establishing clear jurisdictional lines between federal and state authority in energy infrastructure approval processes has failed to provide an adequate framework for addressing today's energy needs. These projects also show that these federalism battles manifest themselves in similar ways regardless of whether the states are the primary decision-makers-as is the case with interstate electric transmission lines- or whether federal agencies are the primary decision-makers-as is the case with interstate natural gas pipelines. Drawing from these illustrations, we evaluate how reforms to the governmental approval processes for energy transport projects can result in more efficient decision-making that can lead to more rapid integration of diverse energy resources and implementation of new energy technologies. We conclude that federal regulators-historically much more attuned to federal and national energy needs in making project approval decisions-can benefit substantially from taking a more proactive approach towards state interests and concerns associated with multistate energy transport projects in cases where federal authority preempts state authority. Such reforms can in turn prompt state regulators to articulate state and local land use and environmental concerns in the early stages of the project review process, better ensuring that these impacts are more fully vetted and addressed prior to federal approvals. Moreover, a more proactive approach by regulators and project proposers can help to diffuse interest group behavior that tends to limit the ability of regulators to fully consider regional and national needs as well as environmental concerns in energy transportation approval, regardless of whether the primary decision-maker is a state or a federal agency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-492
Number of pages70
JournalHarvard Environmental Law Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Reconstituting the federalism battle in energy transportation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this