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Lawsuit Seeks Energy Department Documents on Overdue Grid Study

WASHINGTON – July 20, 2022 ( Newswire) The Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Department of Energy today for failing to release public records about the agency’s long-overdue study on energy transmission bottlenecks across the country.

“This study is vital to understanding how renewable energy capacity can be unlocked to advance our climate goals and prevent more climate-related disasters,” said Center attorney Augusta Wilson. “In the wake of the death of the Build Back Better Act, it’s critical that the Biden administration knock down these grid barriers that keep renewable energy from powering communities across the country. The study can be a crucial step in addressing the climate emergency, so it’s frustrating that it appears to be stuck on the drawing board.”

Today’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., follows the Center’s 2021 request under the Freedom of Information Act for records on the status of the department’s grid congestion study and a computer model, the North American Energy Resilience Model.

A recent department report shows that massive amounts of clean energy are waiting to be connected to transmission lines – enough to power most of the country by 2030.

The grid congestion study, required by Congress, will help federal officials identify ways to meet the Biden administration’s climate goals. Record heatwaves, increasing power outages, and volatile fossil fuel prices add urgency to the study and the need to ramp up distributed energy to improve energy security.

The Center also sent the department a letter today asking about its compliance with the statutory requirements for the study, which Congress strengthened in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Congress requires the department to conduct the study every three years, but the last study was completed in 2015.

The department issued a draft study in 2020, but it was never finalized. That document indicated the agency intended to base the grid congestion study on the new energy resilience computer model. The model includes all energy sources, including fossil fuels, and fails to consider how grid improvements could facilitate the transition to renewable energy – such as by expanding access to distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, storage and microgrids to wholesale transmission markets.

A January department notice said it intends to prepare a transmission needs study to fulfill its congressional mandate, but the notice provided no timeline for completing the study. The notice also failed to address issues that Congress wants considered, like the facilitation of renewable energy and minimizing of harm to “sensitive environmental areas and cultural heritage sites.”

“The Energy Department is a linchpin in the climate fight, and it’s failing to explain how it plans to do its part to get the country to a reliable renewable energy grid,” said Wilson. “We’re in a climate emergency, and the public has a right to know what the department is doing to tackle it.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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