Bulk Transmission Environment in Utah
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:||Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Utah State Historic Preservation Office, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Utah Division of Water Quality|
State Environment Process
Utah does not have a state-administered siting act for high-voltage transmission lines, permitting and review for these facilities are under the authority of local government entities.
Cultural Resource Assessment
In Utah, state agencies and developers using state funds must take into account how their expenditures or undertakings will affect historic properties through submission of a written evaluation to the Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The written evaluation is required if the project has the potential to affect cultural or historic resources within the state. If historic properties are located at the project location and they will be adversely affected by the project, then the state agency must develop a plan to mitigate the impacts of the project on historic or cultural resources. Developers must comply with notice requirements if archaeological resources are discovered on the project site during development. Developers are also required to follow specific procedures if human remains are discovered on the project site during development, with further notice requirements if the remains are Native American.
Biological Resource Assessment
Developers are encouraged, but not required, to consult with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) in order to accurately assess the impacts of the project on Utah’s habitats. Developers may seek the assistance of an independent contractor to study potential impacts on Utah’s sensitive species. However, a developer would need to obtain a Rights-of-Way Lease from the DWR for transmission line projects that cross a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or other DWR managed area (R657-28-23). The following information is required as part of the application to obtain a Right-of-Way lease as it pertains to biological resources:
- Identification of adverse impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat associated with the proposed use and how they will be avoided, minimized, or mitigated.
- Before final approval is granted the DWR may require the applicant to provide the following additional information:
- A certified copy of a survey of the area affected by the proposed project prepared by a licensed surveyor. A centerline survey describing the proposed right-of-way lease and its width is adequate for a pipeline, road, power line, or similar use.
- A biological assessment, including an analysis of the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative effects the proposed project may have on wildlife, wildlife habitat, and public recreational use opportunities.
- A survey of threatened, endangered and candidate plant and animal species, Utah wildlife sensitive species, and Utah species of special concern conducted on and adjacent to the proposed project.
- Proof that the applicant has complied with the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, where applicable, including preparation of all environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, or other reports required by the administering federal agency.
Water Resource Assessment
Developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting, Section 401 water quality certification, and antidegradation reviews.
Developers must comply with Utah’s Nonpoint Source Pollution requirements if their project will affect “impaired waters.” However, if the developer’s project will not affect impaired waters, then compliance with nonpoint source pollution controls is voluntary. Developers may qualify for financial assistance if they choose to comply with voluntary nonpoint source pollution controls. Utah Nonpoint Source Pollution Management.
Developers must comply with NPDES requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States, which includes wetlands. In Utah, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has delegated authority to the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) for the permit program controls under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. The program in Utah is called the Utah Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (UPDES). Developers must submit a UPDES Permit Application to DWQ for review. DWQ may approve or deny any request for a UPDES permit. If the application is approved, then DWQ will issue a Draft UPDES Permit, provide public notice, and allow for public comment before issuing a Final UPDES Permit. 
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. Utah has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. Utah’s program is known as the Utah Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (UPDES) Program. Construction activities that disturb 1 or more acres of land must be authorized under the UPDES General Permit for Construction Activities CGP). Developers are required to apply for and be issued a CGP by the DWQ prior to commencing construction activities. The CGP includes provisions for the development of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) for the purpose of maximizing the potential benefits of pollution, erosion, and sediment control measures at construction sites through the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs). The SWPPP typically defines the characteristics of the site and the type of construction that will be occurring; describes practices that will be implemented to control erosion and the release of pollutants in stormwater; creates an implementation schedule; and describes final stabilization to minimize erosion and prevent stormwater impacts after construction is complete. The SWPPP is typically submitted with the CGP application. A copy of the SWPPP must be located on-site at all times, including the maintenance log which provides evidence that the project has been in compliance with UPDES. According to the UPDES, developers are required to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the DWQ to obtain coverage under the GCP. The DWQ has 7 days to review the NOI and permit application and the permit is considered to be issued after that time. The permit coverage is announced in the Federal Register, the DWQ does not send a formal verification of permit coverage.
Developers must obtain a Section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) if their project implicates a 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. Developers must submit a Section 401 Water Quality Application to DWQ for review.  Following review, DWQ will issue a Draft Water Quality Certification, provide public notice, and allow for comment. Developers may be required to participate in a public hearing if one is requested.  DWQ may approve the certification outright, or may impose conditions on approval. 
Developers will be required to participate in Antidegradation Reviews (ADRs) for any action that has the potential to degrade water quality. Activities subject to ADRs include any activities that require a permit or water quality certification pursuant to federal law. The main purposes of ADRs are to ensure that the discharge is necessary, water quality standards will not be violated, and that alternatives to minimize degradation are considered. Developers will be required to a Level I or Level II ADR depending on the proposed activity and level of likely degradation. Level I reviews are intended to ensure that proposed actions will not impair “existing uses.” Level II reviews are required for any activity that is not temporary and limited in nature and is likely to result in degradation of water quality. Developers are encouraged to develop a work plan which clearly defines the scope of work for developing alternatives. After the developer and DWQ complete the ADR process, DWQ will certify that an antidegradation review has been completed and the developer may proceed with obtaining other necessary permits.
Air Quality Assessment Process
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality - Division of Air Quality (DAQ), is responsible for issuing permits for operations that emit any contaminant into the air. Pollutants emitted from a transmission line project are typically limited to the construction phase and primarily include fugitive dust (airborne dust) emitted from construction equipment/activities. There is currently no permit required from the DAQ for discharges of fugitive dust; however, a fugitive dust control plan is an item commonly included in a SWPPP.
The Fugitive Dust Rule (R307-309) requires a fugitive dust control plan (R307-309-6) from all sources whose activities or equipment have the potential to produce fugitive dust (airborne dust) in PM10 and PM2.5 non-attainment areas. A Fugitive Dust Control Plan can be completed online.
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 Utah 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 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 Utah, projects subject to the High Voltage Power Line Act (new transmission lines that are 230kV or greater or existing transmission lines whose voltage is increased to 230kV or more), must file a Notice of Intent (NOI) notifying the local land use authority of its intent to file a land use application. The NOI requires a description of environmentally sensitive areas, which may include visual resources. Developers should review local government resource management plans, comprehensive plans, regulations, etc. to identify any visual resources within the local governments jurisdiction that should be considered and included in the NOI and/or are included in permit requirements.
Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment
Developers may be required to obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) if their project requires treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous wastes.  “Hazardous wastes” are defined in Utah. Code Ann. 19-6-102(10). Developers must submit Hazardous Waste Permit Application Part A and Part B to DEQ for review. Following review, DEQ may prepare a Draft Permit or issue a Notice of Intent to Deny.  Developers may be required to participate in a public hearing if one is requested. DEQ may impose terms and conditions to issuance of the Hazardous Waste Permit. 
Local Environment Process
In the state of Utah transmission line siting and permitting is conducted at the local level. The local regulatory authorities include counties and incorporated city governments. Because each local government entity (county, town, city, etc.) has a unique process for regulating land use within their respective jurisdictions, it is recommended that transmission line developers learn about all permitting requirements, including environmental reviews, that may apply early in the planning phase.
Policies & Regulations
- An Introduction to Electric Power Transmission
- CHAT: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools
- DEQ Groundwater Permitting Guidebook
- DEQ UPDES Forms Website
- EPA Hazardous Waste Generators Website
- Utah Air Guidance Documents Webpage
- Utah Antidegradation FAQ
- Utah Antidegradation Review Form
- Utah Antidegradation Review Implementation Guidance
- Utah DEQ Air Permitting Branch Webpage
- Utah DEQ Energy Pre-Design Program
- Utah DEQ Website
- Utah Department of Environmental Quality Forms Webpage
- Utah Department of Environmental Quality Hazardous Waste Permits Website
- Utah Division of Environmental Response and Remediation Underground Storage Tank Branch Webpage
- Utah Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Plan
- Utah Sensitive Species List Webpage
- Utah State Historic Preservation Office Webpage
- Utah Underground Injection Control Program Webpage
- Utah Underground Storage Tank Installation Permit
- Utah Water Quality Standards Workgroup Website
- Utah's Public Notice Website
- U.A.C. R317-8: Utah Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (UPDES) (2014). 6.5
- U.A.C. R317-15: Water Quality Certification (2014). 4
- U.A.C. R317-15: Water Quality Certification (2014). 5.5
- U.A.C. R317-15: Water Quality Certification (2014). 6.3
- U.A.C. R315-4: Procedures for Decisionmaking (2014). 1.1
- U.A.C. R315-4: Procedures for Decisionmaking (2014). 1.6
- U.A.C. R315-4: Procedures for Decisionmaking (2014). 1.15