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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Bulk Transmission Environment in Montana

Regulatory Information Overviews

Search for other summaries about Bulk Transmission regulations and permitting.


At a Glance

Jurisdiction: Montana

Environmental Review Process: Montana Facility Siting Act (MSFA) or if a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA).

Environmental Review Agency: Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council

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: Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council, Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, United States Environmental Protection Agency

State Environment Process

The state of Montana has a state-administered siting act for high voltage transmission lines, the Montana Facility Siting Act (MFSA).[1] An applicant must file an application with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The role of the state in permitting high voltage transmission lines is to approve or deny the Certificate of Compliance (CC) and to provide environmental review. [1]

Montana Environmental Policy Act Review Process

If a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) unless the activities are otherwise exempt/excluded under Rule 17-4-607(5). MEPA is a procedural statute requiring public notice/comment and the consideration of alternatives, similar to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The MDEQ and the Montana Environmental Quality Council may be consulted by either the responsible agency or the developer during the MEPA process.

Cultural Resource Assessment Process

Typically, early consultation and close coordination with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is necessary to prevent the inadvertent disruption of a historical site.

If heritage property or paleontological remains (hereafter “cultural resources”) are discovered on the project site, developers must comply with Montana state law. The discovery of cultural resources may require obtaining a permit and providing public notice and notice to Indian Tribes. Heritage property and paleontological remains are defined in Section 22-3-421 MCA. If the developer discovers cultural resources on any lands owned by the state, the developer must promptly report the presence of cultural resources to the SHPO and the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (MDNRC) and take all reasonable steps to ensure preservation of the cultural resources. [2] Upon a cultural resource discovery, the MDNRC will consult with the SHPO and determine whether it is necessary to prepare an antiquities inventory for the project area. After preparing an antiquities inventory (if required), the MDNRC considers the potential project effects and may require mitigation measures or excavation in order for the project to continue.

Biological Resource Assessment Process

Developers should consult with biologists within the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) division to determine whether protected wildlife habitats will be affected by the project. The MFWP will suggest approaches for avoiding or mitigating damage to local ecosystems.

Information regarding Federally listed Threatened and Endangered wildlife and plant species in Montana, including consultation requirements are included on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Montana Ecological Services Field Office webpage.

Water Resource Assessment Process

Transmission line 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.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) 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, which includes wetlands. Montana has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The MDEQ issued NPDES permits in accordance with EPA regulations and MCA 75-5-402. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.

Developers must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the MDEQ 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 waters of the United States, which includes wetlands. The MDEQ has developed administrative rules for water quality certification under Rules of 17.30.101 -17.30.109.

Air Quality Assessment Process

Air quality permits applicable to transmission line construction and operation were not identified for the state of Montana; however, applicants should review federal, state, and local laws and regulations for air quality permits or compliance that may be applicable to each individual project such as construction permits or fugitive dust plans.

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.

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 sensitive viewers (i.e., residents, recreationist, etc.) located along the right-of-way.

The Certificate of Compliance (CC) application is made up of three sections, the Alternative Siting Study, Baseline Study, and Impact Assessment of the transmission line. The MDEQ provides detailed requirements for these sections in their circular Application Requirements for Linear Facilities. As part of the Alternative Siting Study and Baseline Study, impacts to visual resources must be considered and must identify areas where the presence of the facility would be incompatible with published visual management plans or regulations designated to protect viewsheds adopted by federal, state or local governments. In addition, visual resource and viewer information for any recreation areas, national register or national register eligible site, residential area, and highway or county roads that occurs with the projects impact zone must be included as part of the Baseline Data Study; specific information required is outlined in Section 3.7 (10) of the circular. The application must also contain an assessment of the potential types and levels of visual resource impacts for each alternative facility location. The assessment must include a description of the potential alteration, visual quality and compatibility of lands affected by the facility, and documentation that agencies with management responsibility for visual resources have been consulted concerning impacts and mitigation, and a description and evaluation of the mitigation measures suggested by those agencies.

Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process

Developers must obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from the MDEQ if their project facility will treat, store, dispose, or transport hazardous waste. [3] and [4] Montana’s applicable hazardous waste statute and regulations are based on the federal regulations: Title 40 CFR 260-270 Hazardous Waste.

Local Environment Process

Under state laws, Montana counties and municipalities are given zoning authority to regulate and restrict the use of land and require permits for buildings within their jurisdiction lines. Local government permitting requirements, including environmental review may apply and should be identified early in the planning/permitting process.

Policies & Regulations


  1. Montana Code 75-20-201 (2014).
  2. MCA 22-3-435 - Report Discovered Heritage Properties or Paleontological Remains (1979).
  3.  MCA 75-10-4
  4. ARM 17-53 - Hazardous Waste (2013).

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