Part of the process
Summerson said her job is to manage the federal process under the National Environmental Policy Act, the law that coordinates the environmental impacts of projects being considered by federal agencies. Current land use, water use, health effects, species of concern, major rivers, and historical, cultural and tribal considerations are among the areas the department will study.
“I am not a proponent of the project, I am a proponent of the NEPA process,” Summerson said. “My job is to ensure we do this correctly, both for the government and for the public.”
In response to an audience question, Summerson said eminent domain is a last resort.
“For both Clean Line and the Department of Energy, our strong preference is to work with the landowners and take the time to come up with an acceptable easement with acceptable compensation along the route,” Summerson said. “Eminent domain is the absolute last resort.”
Michael Skelly, Clean Line's president, attended the Cushing meeting as an observer. He said the company is reimbursing the Energy Department for its costs in putting together the meetings and the environmental review.
“We're building on efforts we've been making for the last couple of years to reach out to the public and potentially affected landowners and tell them about the project and what the project will accomplish,” Skelly said. “Most importantly, we're getting input and that will help us do a better job in putting the project together.”
The Energy Department plans to issue a draft environmental impact statement by the end of the year. Then it will hold another series of public meetings on the draft. The department isn't expected to make a decision on its participation in the project until 2014 at the earliest.