Bulk Transmission Environment in Idaho
At a Glance
|Environmental Review Process:||Varies by local municipality|
|Environmental Review Agency:||Varies by local municipality|
|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:||Idaho State Historical Society, Idaho Department of Fish & Game, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Department of Water Resources, United States Environmental Protection Agency|
State Environment Process
Idaho does not have a state environmental review process. However, developers must comply with cultural resource, biological resource, water quality, air quality, and hazardous waste and materials rules where applicable.
Cultural Resources Assessment
Developers must consult with the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) if a cairn or grave is discovered on site during development. ISHS will work with developers to determine if mitigation measures are necessary or possible. In some cases, the project may be altered to preserve the cairn or grave. If the project cannot be altered and impact is unavoidable, then reinternment may be necessary. If the cairn or grave is associated with an Indian Tribe, then they must be notified by ISHS and further action may be required.
Biological Resource Assessment
The Idaho Department of Game and Fish (IDFG) has no permitting or siting authority related to transmission line projects. However, the IDFG will review and provide comments to the permitting entities and decision makers reviewing transmission project prosals. The IDFG may also suggest options to avoid or mitigate a project's potential effects on biological resources. Additionally, local ordinances, such as county comprehensive plans, may require consultation in order to determine the potential impacts of the project on flora and fauna. Developers may meet informally with IDFG in order to determine whether there are species in the area that may be impacted by the project.
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, and Section 401 water quality certification.
In Idaho, the NPDES permit program is administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which means that the EPA is responsible for issuing and enforcing all NPDES permits within the state. The EPA administers NPDES in a uniform manner pursuant to 40 CFR 122. Developers will apply for either an individual or general NPDES permit and the EPA facilitates public notice and comment prior to issuing any permit. The EPA will not issue a NPDES permit unless the developer has obtained a 401 water quality certification from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
Developers must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification for NPDES permits from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) if their project requires a federal NPDES permit. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to obtain 401 certification for NPDES permits, and the developer is not required to apply to DEQ directly for certification. EPA will develop a preliminary draft NPDES permit and send a copy, with a request for 401 certification, to the DEQ for review. The DEQ may choose to conduct their own public comment period on the preliminary permit. DEQ will prepare a draft 401 certification and submit it to the EPA for review. The draft 401 certification will be appended to any public notice required for the NPDES permit. Following public notice and review, the DEQ will issue a final 401 certification for the project.
In 2014, the Idaho Legislature revised Idaho Code to direct DEQ to seek EPA authorization for a state-operated pollutant discharge elimination system permitting program. The state program will be called the Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) program. DEQ must submit a primacy application that adheres to the Clean Water Act and 40 CFR 123 to EPA by September 1, 2016. Information regarding the development of Idaho's Pollutant Discharge Elimination System is available on the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality website.
Developers requiring a Section 404 (Dredge and Fill Permit), which covers impacts to wetlands and other waters of the United States and is administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers, are required to obtain a Section 401 (Water Quality Certification) from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Corps may issue an individual or general 404 permit. All individual permits are required to obtain a 401 certification from the DEQ. Developers must submit an application for a 404 permit to the Corps for review. The Corps will notify the developer if 401 water quality certification is required. The Corps and DEQ work together to obtain certification for 404 dredge and fill permits, and the developer is not required to apply for each separately. DEQ will determine if the proposed activity will comply with Idaho State Water Quality Standards before issuing a draft 401 certification. If DEQ determines that the activity will comply with water quality standards, then it will issue a Final 401 Certification.
Additional water quality permits and/or requirements may apply if any wastewater reuse ([IDAPA 58.01.17]), septic (58.01.17), or drinking water systems (58.01.02) are necessary for the construction and/or operation of a transmission line.
Air Quality Assessment Process
Construction activities are subject to fugitive dust control requirements as outlined in IDAPA 58.01.01.651.
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.
Although the State of Idaho has no known magnetic field regulations, local governments may have regulations relating to EMF standards.
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 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 that is 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.
Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process
Permits as they relate to regulated quantities of waste and hazardous materials do not typically apply to transmission line projects; however, solid wastes or hazardous wastes generated by construction and/or operation activities are subject to handling, storage and disposal requirements in accordance with IDAPA 58.01.05 (Rules and Standards for Hazardous Waste).
Local Environment Process
In the state of Idaho transmission line siting and permitting is primarily conducted at the local level, with the exception of the CPCN which is issued by the IPUC. The local regulatory authorities include counties and incorporated city governments. Local government permitting requirements, including environmental reviews, may apply.
Policies & Regulations
- An Introduction to Electric Power Transmission
- CHAT: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools
- Environmental Recommendations for Transmission Planning
- Idaho Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Webpage
- Idaho DEQ Air Quality Permits Applicant and DEQ Responsibilities guidebook
- Idaho DEQ Environmental Assessment Information
- Idaho DEQ Nonpoint Source Pollution Webpage
- Idaho DEQ Pre-Application Meeting Agenda
- Idaho DEQ Storage Tanks Webpage
- Idaho Dredge and Fill Permits Webpage
- Idaho How to Obtain EPA ID Number Webpage
- Idaho NPDES Permits Webpage
- Idaho On-Site Wastewater Systems Webpage
- Idaho Permit to Construct Application Webpage
- Idaho Section 401 Certification Guidance
- Idaho Solid Waste Webpage
- Idaho TMDL Settlement Agreement
- Idaho Underground Injection Control Program Webpage
- Inside Idaho: Interactive Numeric and Spatial Information Data Engine
- RCRA Notification of Regulated Waste Activity (EPA Form 8700-12)
- RCRA Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest (EPA Form 8700-22)
- U.S. EPA Region 10