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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Bulk Transmission Environment in Oregon

Regulatory Information Overviews

Search for other summaries about Bulk Transmission regulations and permitting.


At a Glance

Jurisdiction: Oregon

Environmental Review Process: Potential environmental impacts are reviewed during the Site Certification application process.

Environmental Review Agency: Oregon Energy Facility Siting 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: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Water Resources Commission, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, Oregon Department of Forestry, Public Utility Commission of Oregon, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, Oregon Department of Aviation, Oregon State Historic Preservation Office

State Environment Process

The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), Energy Siting Facility Council has the authority to site most high-voltage transmission lines within the state and applicants are required to obtain a site certificate which is granted by the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC). As part of the state’s energy facility siting process developers are required to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI). The applicant is required to identify significant environmental impacts in the NOI that may occur as a result of the construction and operation of the proposed facility on the study area(s), including impacts affecting:

  • Air quality
  • Surface and ground water quality and availability
  • Wildlife and wildlife habitat
  • Threatened and endangered plant and animal species
  • Historic, cultural and archaeological resources
  • Scenic and aesthetic areas
  • Recreation
  • Land use[1]

The NOI and the application for a site certificate is sent for comment and recommendation to the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Water Resources Commission, the State Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Water Resources Director, the State Geologist, the State Forestry Department, the Public Utility Commission of Oregon, the State Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land Conservation and Development, the Oregon Department of Aviation, any other state agency that has regulatory or advisory responsibility with respect to the facility and any city or county affected by the application. [2]

It is recommended that applicants begin informal discussions with the ODOE and other state agencies (such as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality) and local land use agencies prior to submitting an NOI to allow time for planning and identification of issues. Early coordination with state and local agencies will help to identify potential permits that may be required. Some permits may require baseline data that are not available from existing studies and the applicant may be required to gather baseline data. The state of Oregon website contains detailed information pertaining to energy facility siting, including the siting process, siting standards, siting rules and statutes. This information is accessible through the following website: ODOE: Energy Facility Siting

Cultural Resource Assessment

Developers must complete the Oregon cultural consideration process through the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and if cultural resources are unearthed in a project area the developer must obtain an Archaeological permit. The process is regulated under O.R.S. 97, O.R.S. 358, and O.A.R. 736-051. If the project is likely to unearth cultural resources, developers must consult with tribes and submit a project plan subject to review by SHPO. If cultural resources are unearthed the developer must commence the Archaeological Permit Application process. The application process involves cultural surveying of the project area and an associated report, as well as development of a mitigation plan subject to SHPO approval.

Biological Resources

If a developer proposes activity within an area containing state and/or federal endangered or threatened species and the activity might result in the incidental take of a member of those species, the developer should obtain an incidental take permit through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). The state process is regulated under O.A.R. 635-100. Developers should consult the Oregon State Endangered Species List. The permitting process requires the developer to apply for an incidental take permit subject to approval of the DFW. DFW will approve incidental take permits if an incidental take of the type applied for will not adversely impact the long-term conservation of the species or its habitat.

Developers must submit a fish and wildlife mitigation plan to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) if a proposed project will impact the habitat of fish and wildlife. Mitigation plan requirements are regulated under O.A.R. 635-415. Mitigation plan requirements differ based on the management category of the impacted habitat. DFW may require posting of bond to cover the cost of required mitigation measures. Developers are required to comply with the mitigation plan and mitigation policies of DFW.

Water Quality Permitting

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.

Developers must contact the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to ensure compliance with Oregon’s Nonpoint Source Pollution Control program to ensure Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) standards for impaired waters are not exceeded. Projects with surface runoff might result in violation of TMDL standards and are subject to the Nonpoint Source Pollution Control program.

If a developer receives a federal license or permit to conduct an activity that may result in a discharge into the waters of the United States, which includes wetlands, the developer must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WCQ) Permit from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). WCQ permits are required under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251, and O.A.R. 340-048. No permit is required if the project does not require a federal license or permit, or will not discharge pollutants into waters of the United States, including wetlands. WCQ Permit Applications are subject to approval by the DEQ.

Air Quality Assessment Process

Air quality permits applicable to transmission line construction and operation were not identified for the state of Oregon; 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.

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.

In Oregon, projects subject to O.R.S 469.310 and are required to obtain a site certificate from the EFSC. As part of the site certificate process, applicants are required to submit an NOI to identify significant potential environmental impacts that may occur as a result of the construction and operation of the facility, including scenic and aesthetic areas. [1]

In order to obtain a site certificate, an analysis of significant potential impacts of the proposed facility, if any, on scenic resources identified as significant or important in local land use plans, tribal land management plans and federal land management plans for any lands located within the analysis area must be included in the site certificate application and shall include the following information:

  • A list of the local, tribal and federal plans that address lands within the analysis area.
  • Identification and description of the scenic resources identified as significant or important in the plans listed above, including a copy of the portion of the management plan that identifies the resource as significant or important.
  • A description of significant potential adverse impacts to the scenic resources identified in (B), including, but not limited to, impacts such as:
    • Loss of vegetation or alteration of the landscape as a result of construction or operation; and
    • Visual impacts of facility structures or plumes.
  • The measures the applicant proposes to avoid, reduce or otherwise mitigate any significant adverse impacts.
  • A map or maps showing the location of the scenic resources described under (B).
  • The applicant’s proposed monitoring program, if any, for impacts to scenic resources. [3]

Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process

Projects that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste must obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit.

Owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities must obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit as required by O.R.S. 466, O.A.R. 340-105, O.A.R. 340-106, and O.A.R. 340-120. The State of Oregon regulates permitting of TSD facilities through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The Hazardous Waste Permit process involves submission of a land use compatibility statement, plans, evidence of compliance with state siting requirements, and payment of fees. The review process involves a public notice and comment period, a public hearing, and state agency consultation.

Local Environment Process

In the state of Oregon, the applicant can either go through the state siting and permitting process or seek local land use approval. [4] Applicants choosing to seek approval from local governments must follow local procedures, and comply with all local land use ordinances, which may include environmental reviews.

Policies & Regulations


  1. 1.0 1.1 O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0011(j)
  2. O.R.S. 469 (2014). 350(2)
  3. O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0010(r)
  4. O.R.S. 469 (2014). 504(4)

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