The federal government could one day come in and tell north country farmers and other property owners that they have no choice but to allow a proposed transmission line carrying wind-generated power to cross their land. And adding to the affront, they might have to pay for it, too.

That's the thrust of legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to give Washington expansive new powers to build thousands of miles of power lines needed to ensure the country meets its long-term goals for increasing reliance on electricity from renewable energy sources.

The reliability and capacity of the country's aging power grid to carry the power from distant sources have been questioned. By one estimate, as many as 15,000 miles of high-voltage lines will be needed crisscrossing the country to get power from likely producers in the Midwest and Western states - or from north country wind farms - to the East Coast and other parts of the country.

However, doing that will require years of planning and siting of power lines that will have to be reconciled with local and state permitting regulations, subject to contentious public hearings and strict environmental reviews that could delay or even halt construction.


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