State Energy Facility Siting Commissions Public Utility Commissions

In some states, the state legislature has given a single agency primary jurisdiction for siting decisions for wind energy projects. In these states a dedicated agency oversees all issues relating to the siting of new energy generation facilities, allowing other state agencies to participate as interested parties. Examples of these types of agencies include public utilities commissions, state siting boards, or environmental agencies. The Resources section provides a list of state agencies with siting authority. The review process before a primary agency may involve detailed adjudicatory hearings during which attorneys and expert witnesses provide information about numerous issues. This detailed review may include environmental impact review, superseding that under the state "little NEPA" program (see Section 4.2.3).

In Ohio, siting authority is vested in the Ohio Power Siting Board for wind projects with generating capacity greater than or equal to 50 MW or an electric transmission line greater than or equal to 125 kV.

Example

Example

Typical State Permitting Requirements for Wind Energy Projects

Agency

Approval

Trigger

Description

State

Lead Agency varies by project

"Little NEPA" decision

Review threshold established by state statute

Many states have their own environmental impact review or environmental planning laws that are similar to the federal NEPA process. The state review may be required when the federal process is not. When both the federal and state reviews are required, one environmental impact assessment is typically coordinated among federal and state agencies to satisfy both sets of requirements.

Public Service/Utility Commission or State Energy Facility Siting Commission/ Board/Council

Siting approval and/or Certificate of Public Use and Convenience

Often required for transmission lines above established voltage or length or that cross county boundaries. May be required for wind projects above established MW.

Some states delegate siting approval of wind projects and transmission lines to a public service or utility commission or to an energy facility siting authority. These agencies may review all energy projects, only specific types of projects as defined by state regulations, or projects that request a consolidated state process.

State environmental quality agency

Permit for stormwater discharges

Potential for discharge from site assessment, construction, and operation

Administration of the federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program is often delegated to state agencies. Many states have developed general permits and permits-by-rule as part of their programs.

State environmental quality agency

Water Quality Certification under Section 401 of Clean Water Act

Need for Section 404 permit.

Section 401 Water Quality Certification is necessary to demonstrate that a project will comply with state water quality standards. The Water Quality Certification is typically required before USACE can approve a Section 404 permit. Some states may also require Water Quality Certification as part of a state water quality permit.

State environmental quality agency

Other water-related permits

Impacts to state waters

In addition to state NPDES permits, many states have additional water-related permits, such as isolated wetlands permits, floodplain permits, and water use/water rights permits. Often, states use a joint process with USACE to regulate impacts to state waters, especially to wetlands.

State Historic Preservation Office/ State Archaeologist

Cultural, historic, and archaeological resources consultation/ studies/permits

Potential impacts to cultural resources

Many states have preservation regulations programs similar to the federal historic preservation program. Consultation with the SHPO and State Archaeologist identifies potential impacts and any studies and permits that would be required.

State department of natural resources/ department of parks and wildlife

Wildlife and habitat consultation/permit

Impacts to state wildlife

Some states, such as Texas, issue permits for impacts to protected wildlife or habitat. More often, these agencies do not have permits like the FWS Incidental Take Permit, but consultation is necessary to identify state-protected species and habitat within a project area and to determine need for mitigation measures.

State Department of Transportation

Oversize/overweight vehicle permits

Travel of oversize or overweight vehicles on state roads

Most states set size and weight limits for vehicles traveling on state roads. Permits are required for vehicles that exceed the established limits, such as vehicles carrying turbine components. Special permits for construction equipment are often available.

State Department of Transportation

Utility Permit

Placement of utility lines within state rights-of-way

If project transmission line plans require utilities along state rights-of-ways, this permit would be required.

State Department of Transportation

Entrance/Access Permit

Construction of access road onto state road

If project plans require the construction of new roads that enter state roads, this permit would be required.

A state-issued permit may serve as a consolidated or comprehensive permit, providing a "one-stop" siting process and exempting the project from other state and/or local regulation. Sometimes authority to issue delegated federal permits (such as authority to issue permits under the CWA) that is typically administered by a state environmental agency has not been delegated to the state siting agency, in which case those federal permits must be separately obtained. Alternatively, the state-issued permit may require that any other state and local permits be consistent with the primary state permit. In other states, various state and local agencies retain the autonomy to review matters under their jurisdiction and issue separate permits and approvals.

Some states may not treat wind energy projects any differently than other large-scale electricity generating facility projects. There may be a state siting law that applies generally to all electric generation and transmission facilities, or to generating and transmission facilities above a certain size or length. Alternatively, a state law may apply to all energy facilities, but may have specific provisions applicable only to renewable energy projects. Or the law may apply on a voluntary basis to any renewable energy facilities (regardless of size) that choose to participate in the review process. Other states have laws that specifically address wind energy projects above a threshold generating capacity and that may apply on a voluntary basis for smaller projects.

In Washington, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council provides a "one-stop" siting process for major energy facilities.

Example

Example

Kansas does not have a siting board or public utility/service commission that oversees siting of energy projects. Instead, siting authority is vested in local government entities.

Example

Example

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

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