The Bush administration and the National Governors Association Tuesday formed a task force headed by Sec. of Energy Spencer Abraham and Michigan Gov. John Engler to examine electricity infrastructure issues.

Engler, the new chairman of the governors association, is a close Republican ally of President George W. Bush. The task force will look into current state and federal policies and make recommendations in three areas, DOE said.

It will identify opportunities to streamline generation siting policies and processes, consistent with sound environmental policy, to insure generation capacity is in place to smooth the progress of competitive electricity markets.

The task force is charged with identifying regulatory and institutional barriers to siting of new transmission infrastructure and developing recommendations to helping states break the logjam. It will also have responsibility for identifying policies and practices necessary to support regional electricity markets and for outlining principles for “multistate collaborative approaches to address regional infrastructure issues.”

Presently, siting authority for power lines rests with state and local jurisdictions. This has raised concerns state regulators are blocking transmission lines that appear to benefit one state more than another.

Proposals to bypass state jurisdictions by giving federal regulators eminent domain authority have raised fears of federal control among environmentalists and state regulators.

Abraham called the task force a key piece in putting the administration’s energy policy into place. The Bush energy plan called for removing barriers to siting new power lines to eliminate bottlenecks and create a true national grid.

“This effort is evidence of our recognition of the unique energy concerns facing different regions of the US,” he said. Abraham said the task force complements other activities undertaken by the administration, including work on increasing capacity on Path 15 transmission facilities in California.

Engler said the task force will supply “best practices” information, develop research papers, conduct executive policy forums, provide targeted assistance to individual states, and prepare interim and final reports over a 2-year period.