Bulk Transmission Environment in Nevada
At a Glance
|Environmental Review Process:||Nevada Utility Environmental Protection Act|
|Environmental Review Agency:||Nevada Division of Environmental Protection|
|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:||Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, Nevada State Office of Energy, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection|
State Environment Process
Nevada Utility Environmental Protection Act
For transmission line projects in Nevada having a capacity of 200 kilovolts (kV) or higher (hereafter “utility facilities”), developers must comply with the Nevada Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA).  The developer must submit an application to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUC) for a UEPA permit. The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources must review the application, but the PUC decides whether to approve or deny the permit after the appropriate environmental studies have been conducted and a hearing has taken place. Within the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Division of Environmental Protection has jurisdiction over the administration of environmental issues in the state.
Cultural Resource Assessment
Typically, early consultation and close coordination with the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is necessary to prevent the inadvertent disruption of a historical site. The Nevada State Office of Energy (NSOE) offers resources, available on their website, to assist developers with cultural considerations for energy projects. The SHPO is responsible for identifying, evaluating, registering, and protecting historical properties and resources in Nevada. For certain projects, SHPO consultation may include meeting with potentially affected Indian tribes. If, during project operations, the developer makes an inadvertent discovery of human remains or a tribal burial site, the developer must notify the SHPO Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.
Biological Resource Assessment
Nevada has a particular state notification and review process for all energy projects, including utility facilities as defined in NRS 704.860, that may affect state biological resources. The process is governed by NRS 701.600 et seq.
For energy projects subject to NRS 701.600 et.seq., developers must provide a Notice of Energy Development Project to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). Within 30 days, the NDOW forwards a copy of the Notice to the Nevada State Office of Energy. Depending on the project’s potential impact to biological resources, the developer may need to apply for an Incidental Take Permit and develop a Habitat Conservation Plan pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The process of obtaining an Incidental Take Permit involves three phases: development of a Habitat Conservation Plan phase, a formal permit processing phase, and a post-issuance phase.
Nevada's Energy Planning and Conservation Fund and the Fund for the Recovery of Costs, is a recoupment program to reimburse the NDOW for the cost of consultation. The developer pays a particular recoupment fee before consultation with the NDOW begins. For transmission line projects the initial fee is $5,000 for projects greater than 50kV and less than 50 miles in length or $10,000 for projects greater than 50kV and more than 50 miles in length.
Water Resource Assessment
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 Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) administers a voluntary regulatory Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program to control the impacts of nonpoint source pollution. The NDEP 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. Nevada has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The NDEP issues NPDES permits in accordance with EPA regulations and NAC 445A.031. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters, including wetlands. Stormwater discharge permits are required for certain activities by EPA regulations at 40 CFR § 122.26(b)(14).
Developers must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the NDEP 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 NDEP must ensure that the project will comply with the Clean Water Act, and NRS 445A.620.
Air Quality Assessment
Although air quality permits are not typically required for the operation of a transmission line, a permit may be required for the construction of a line. In the state of Nevada, any process/activity that is an emission source requires an air quality permit. Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 445B.155 defines an emission source as "any property, real or personal, which directly emits or may emit any air contaminant." NRS 445B.110 defines an "air contaminant" as "any substance discharged into the atmosphere except water vapor and droplets." Construction activities that would disturb a surface area greater than 5 acres would require a Surface Area Disturbance (SAD) Fugitive Dust Control Plan in accordance with Nevada Administrative Code (NAC) 445B.22037. Air quality permitting information is available on the NDEP Bureau of Air Pollution Control 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.
Although the State of Nevada 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 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 BLM and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) have developed methodologies for inventorying visual resources and assessing visual impacts on lands under their respective jurisdictions.
In Nevada, projects subject to the Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA), an applicant is required to submit a summary of any studies which have been made of the environmental impact of the facility as part of the UEPA permit application (NRS704.870). In addition, a copy or copies of the environmental studies conducted must be file with the Commission and be available for public inspection (NRS 704.870). Environmental studies required for inclusion in the UEPA permit application may include visual resources.
If projects fall under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and requires federal environmental analysis, then potential impacts to visual resources will need to be evaluated. NEPA review is conducted by a "lead agency.” A “lead agency" is the federal agency responsible for producing the NEPA document(s) and coordinating with any other federal, state, or tribal agencies. For most projects, the lead agency will be the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Department of Energy (DOE), or the United States Department of Defense (DOD). As noted above the BLM and USFS has methodologies for inventorying and assessing impacts to visual resources.
Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process
Developers must obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from the NDEP if their project facility will treat, store, dispose, or transport hazardous waste. NAC 444.8458. In such cases, developers must submit a Hazardous Waste Part A Permit Application to NDEP for review. Following review, the NDEP will issue a Hazardous Waste Permit. Nevada adopts by reference, with certain modifications, Federal hazardous waste regulations.
Local Environment Process
Local regulatory authorities include counties and local municipalities within the state of Nevada. In Nevada, the state has permitting jurisdiction over transmission line projects with a capacity of 200kV or more. Local government permitting requirements, including environmental review may also apply.
Policies & Regulations
- 16 U.S.C. 470w
- An Introduction to Electric Power Transmission
- CHAT: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools
- EPA Hazardous Waste TSDF Guide
- EPA State Manifest Requirements
- Environmental Recommendations for Transmission Planning
- Hazardous Waste Part A Permit Application
- NDEP BMP Guide
- NDEP BWPC Website
- NDEP BWQP website
- NDEP Forms
- Nevada Agreement for Delegation of Federal PSD Program
- Nevada Air Quality Control Permitting Guidance Webpage
- Nevada Air Quality Permitting Webpage
- Nevada Application For Renewable Energy System Generators
- Nevada Archaeological Association Website
- Nevada Bureau of Air Pollution Control Permit Forms Webpage
- Nevada Bureau of Pollution Control Webpage
- Nevada Department of Environmental Protection Public Notices
- Nevada Department of Wildlife Application for Energy Projects "Fund for the Recovery of Costs"
- Nevada Department of Wildlife Energy Planning and Conservation Fund Website
- Nevada Division of Water Resources Forms Webpage
- Nevada Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Plans
- Nevada Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties Webpage
- Nevada Industrial Solid Waste Disposal Site Permit Application
- Nevada Permitting Renewable Energy Resources
- Nevada Renewable Energy Application For Net Metering Customers
- Nevada Sample Application for Permit Under Utility Environmental Protection Act
- Nevada Solid Waste Forms and Guidance Documents Webpage
- Nevada State Air Regulations and State Implementation Plan Webpage
- Nevada State Certified Tank Handler Webpage
- Nevada State Clearinghouse
- Nevada State Historic Preservation Office Webpage
- Nevada State Protocol Agreement for Implementing the National Historic Preservation Act
- Nevada Underground Tank Program Webpage
- Nevada Washoe County Solid Waste Management Webpage
- Notification for Underground Storage Tanks (EPA Form 7530-1)
- Southern Nevada Health District
- Streamlined Permitting Process for Renewable Energy Resources in Nevada
- UEPA Guide for Applicants - Electric Facilities
- UEPA Guide for Applicants – Electric Facilities
- N.R.S. 704.820 - Utility Environmental Protection Act (1971). et seq
- NAC 444 Sanitation (2014). 8458