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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Bulk Transmission Environment in Colorado

Regulatory Information Overviews

Search for other summaries about Bulk Transmission regulations and permitting.


At a Glance

Jurisdiction: Colorado

Environmental Review Process: Varies by local government

Environmental Review Agency: Varies by local government

Type of State Environmental Review (Leasing Stage):

Type of State Environmental Review (Non-invasive Exploration):

Type of State Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration):

Type of State Environmental Review (Drilling):

Type of State Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting):

Contacts/Agencies: Local governments, Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

State Environment Process

In the state of Colorado, transmission lines are permitted at the local level. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has backstop authority only. If a permit is denied by the local government, the applicant may appeal to the PUC if certain conditions are met. [1]

State Cultural Considerations

Developers that discover human remains within the project area must follow Colorado’s process for protecting cultural resources set forth by statute under the Historical, Prehistorical, and Archaeological Resources Act of 1973 and by regulation under 8 CCR 1504-7. Upon discovery of human remains, the county coroner will complete an on-site inquiry and determine whether to contact the Office of the State Archaeologist. If the remains are Native American, the State Archaeologist will notify the Commission of Indian Affairs. The agencies will make a joint determination whether to leave the remains in place or to permit them to be excavated. If the agencies permit excavation, the developer must obtain an excavation permit.

State Biological Considerations

According to Colorado Statute C.R.S. 33-15-114, it is unlawful to operate a business or solicit business on lands owned or managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) without written permission. In anticipation of transmission line work being conducted on such lands, informal consultation with CPW area and/or district wildlife managers is recommended in order to evaluate current wildlife resources for the property(s) in question. These wildlife resources would potentially include state-listed species and state species of concern, big game, game birds, fish, and other general wildlife species. This consultation would help initiate more in-depth analysis leading to avoidance of impacts to wildlife resources where practicable, and would ensure minimization of potential impacts to these resources when avoidance is not practicable.

Water Resource Assessment

Developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting, Section 401 water quality certification, and groundwater discharge.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) administers a voluntary regulatory Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program to control the impacts of nonpoint source pollution. The MDEQ program consists of public awareness, cooperation with other agencies and land owners, and the application of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Developers may choose to comply with the program.

Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. Colorado has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) issues NPDES permits in accordance with the Colorado Water Quality Control Act and implementing regulations: 5 CCR 1002-61 and 5 CCR 1002-61. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters, including wetlands.

Developers must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the CDPHE WQCD if their project implicates any federal license or permit issued to construct or operate a facility which may result in any fill or discharge into navigable waters of the United States, which includes wetlands. The CDPHE WQCD has developed administrative rules for water quality certification under 5 CCR 1002-82 401 Certification Regulation.

If the project will impact groundwater, the developer must obtain a groundwater discharge permit unless the discharge is excluded by 5 CCR 1002-61.14(1). The CDPHE WQCD protects groundwater quality through issuing groundwater discharge permits under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act and 5 CCR 1002-61 for activities that impact groundwater quality such as surface disposal, septic systems, unlined ponds, overland flow, reuse and irrigation.

Air Quality

Air quality permits applicable to transmission line operation were not identified for the state of Colorado. However, if construction of a project will disturb more than 25 acres and the timeframe for construction would be more than 6 months, then a General Construction Permit from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), a Fugitive Dust Plan and Air Pollutant Emission Notice (APEN) may be required. Additional information is available on the CDPHE website.

Electric and Magnetic Field Regulations

Electric and magnetic fields (EMF) are invisible areas of energy that surround any electrical device including transmission lines, electrical wiring, and household appliances. Most medical experts and other scientific peer reviews of the more than 30 years of conducted research agree there is no conclusive evidence of harmful effects from exposure to EMF nor has there been a demonstrated biological mechanism that links EMF exposure to a disease. EMF Electric Fields Associated with the Use of Electric Power: Questions and Answers brochure contains more information regarding EMF.

In the state of Colorado, the CPUC has adopted what amounts to a guideline in their rule 3206 (e) (III) for the approval of new power lines in Colorado, which states: Proposed magnetic field levels of 150 mG (milliGauss) and below are deemed reasonable by rule and need not be mitigated to a lower level. Proposed magnetic field levels above 150 mG will be subject to further review. [2]

Visual/Scenic Resources

Developers should be aware that the potential effects of transmission projects on visual resources has been a challenge in siting transmission facilities. Transmission line projects may cause visual contrast within the landscapes they cross due to their length, size and the regular geometric forms of the transmission towers. These projects may affect multiple sensitive viewers (i.e., residents, recreationist, etc.) located along the right-of-way.

Analysis of impacts to visual resources as a result of a transmission line project may be required as part of a federal, state or local permitting process. For example, at the federal level, a project required to go through the NEPA process must evaluate impacts to visual resources. In addition, some public agencies have requirements or provide guidelines for evaluating and assessing impacts to visual resources for projects that cross their jurisdiction. For example, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have developed methodologies for inventorying visual resources and assessing visual impacts on lands under their respective jurisdictions.

Developers should review local government resource management plans, comprehensive plans, regulations, etc. to identify any permit requirements as they relate to visual resources. For example, as part of the Boulder County 1041 permit process applicants must identify any significant deterioration of existing natural aesthetics.

Waste & Hazardous Material

Permits as they relate to regulated quantities of waste and hazardous materials do not typically apply to transmission line projects; however, applicants should review federal, state, and local laws and regulations for permits that may be applicable. Some ancillary facilities such as certain types of substations may require compliance with state and federal waste and hazardous materials regulations.

Local Environment Process

Colorado does not have a state environmental review process as the siting of high-voltage transmission lines is typically done at the local level through the issuance of a 1041 Permit (used to regulate areas and activities of state interest), Conditional Use Permit, Special Use Permit, or other zoning and land use permits. However, environmental reviews/impact analysis may be required as part of the permit application process. For example, an environmental impact analysis is required as part of the 1041 application in Boulder County: Article 8: 8-507 Application Submittal Requirements. The applicant is required to identify potential environmental impacts as they relate to land use, water resources, wetlands and riparian areas, terrestrial and aquatic animals and habitat; terrestrial and aquatic plant life, air quality, recreation and open space, unique areas of geologic, historic and archaeologic importance; visual aesthetic resources.

Policies & Regulations


  1. Colorado - C.R.S. 29-20-108 (2014).
  2. 4 Code of Colorado Regulations (CCR) 723-3 (2014). 3206(e)(III)

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