Bulk Transmission Environment in Wyoming
At a Glance
|Environmental Review Process:||Wyoming Industrial Siting Act (WISA) Permit|
|Environmental Review Agency:||Industrial 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:||Industrial Siting Council, Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, Wyoming Public Service Commission, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming State Geological Survey, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, The University of Wyoming, Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, WDEQ-Water Quality Division, WDEQ-Air Quality Division|
State Environment Process
Wyoming Environmental Review Process
For projects subject to the Wyoming Industrial Siting Act (WISA), environmental impacts are considered during the WISA permit application process. Permit approval is granted by the Industrial Siting Council (ISC), which reviews the environmental impacts of planned facilities prior to issuing a permit. Applicants must evaluate potential environmental impacts and include any plans and proposals for alleviating environmental impacts which may result from the proposed facility. The evaluations, plans and proposals cover the following environmental resources:
- Scenic resources
- Recreational resources
- Archaeological and historical resources
- Terrestrial and aquatic wildlife
- Threatened, endangered and rare species and other species of concern identified in the state wildlife action plan as prepared by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department 
Copies of the permit application are provided to 18 state agencies for statutory review and comment, and to local governments, schools and districts in the affected area.  State agencies that would provide reviews on environmental resources (as noted above) include the following State agencies:
- Wyoming Public Service Commission
- Wyoming Game and Fish Department
- Wyoming State Geologist
- Wyoming Department of Agriculture
- Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
- The University of Wyoming
- Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments
- Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources
- Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
In order to minimize or prevent duplication of efforts, the ISC permit, the county permit, and the Federal agency sometimes utilize common information for their distinct and unique permits. The ISC regulations allow for common data to be submitted as long as it meets the application requirements and format.
Cultural Resource Assessment
The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is required to advise the Industrial Siting Division (ISD) on the advisability of issuing or denying a permit to construct and operate and give recommendations for permit conditions [W.S. 35-12-110(b)(xx)]. The Wyoming SHPO reviews the cultural resource sections of the WISA permit application and makes recommendations as to its adequacy. Applicants are required to consult with SHPO staff and database, conduct Class II or Class III Cultural Surveys, and comment on the acceptability of the recommendations for each site (unless redacted).
The Wyoming Antiquities Act of 1935 (as amended) prohibits any excavation on any prehistoric ruins, pictographs, hieroglyphics or any other ancient markings, writing, or archeological and paleontological deposits on any state land in Wyoming without first obtaining a permit from the State Board of Land Commissioners. Two types of permits are issued by the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI): a survey and limited testing permit and a permit to conduct archaeological data recover or extensive testing.
For transmission line projects crossing state parks, consultation and permission from the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources (WYSPCR) Director predicated on the approval of the State Board of Land Commissioners is required. State parks and historic sites as listed in W.S. 36-8-501-1501.
Biological Resource Assessment
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) is the responsible state agency for consultation concerning state listed special status species. The WGFD does not directly issue permits related to transmission line projects, but is involved in consultation to determine environmental impacts as part of the WISA Permit Application, Section 404 permit, and Section 401 certification. WGFD would be consulted at the beginning of the state permit application process to identify and address concerns for state species of special concern and for those species listed in Wyoming Game and Fish Commission Regulations, Chapter 52, Nongame Wildlife, Section 12, Protected Animals. State nongame wildlife listed in this section are defined as protected under W.S. 23-1-101 and may only be taken in accordance with Commission Regulation Chapter 33, Issuance of Scientific Or Education Permits.
The State of Wyoming has adopted Executive Order (EO 2011-5), Greater Sage-grouse Core Area Protection to ensure greater sage-grouse conservation. For transmission line projects that would cross an area designated by the State as a sage-grouse Core Population Area, additional consultation should be pursued with the WDFG o the core area strategy as it relates to the project. New transmission lines constructed within a sage-grouse Core Population Area will be consistent with E0 2011-5 if the project is constructed between July 1 and March 14 (or between July 1 and November 30 in identified winter concentration) and within one-half mile either side of existing 115kV or larger transmission lines creating a corridor no wider than one mile. For new transmission lines that would be constructed outside of this one-mile wide corridor within a greater sage-grouse Core Population Area should be authorized or conducted only when it can be demonstrated that the activity will not cause declines in greater sage-grouse populations.
Water Resource Assessment
Developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for Wyoming Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WYPDES) compliance and Section 401 water quality certification.
The WDEQ/Water Quality Division (WQD) is the state agency responsible for regulating WYPDES program in the state of Wyoming. Developers are required to obtain a Large Construction General Permit (LCGP) [WYR 10-0000] if the project will disturb five acres or more. The LCGP regulates stormwater discharges from all construction activities that disturb five or more acres. Under the LCGP, the applicant must prepare a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) and submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to the WDEQ/WQD 30 days prior to the commencement of construction activities. The SWPPP describes potential pollution sources and the best management practices (BMPs) that would be used to prevent stormwater contamination. If it is determined that any part of a transmission project falls within a Greater Sage-Grouse Core Area (SGCA), then the developer shall coordinate with the WGFD and a letter must be obtained confirming consistency with the Executive Order EO2011-5) prior to applying for coverage under the LCGP.
Operators covered under the LCGP ensure, through implementation of the SWPPP, that stormwater discharges from their facility do not cause a violation of state surface water quality standards as defined in Chapter 1 of the Wyoming Water Quality Rules and Regulations. Furthermore, stormwater discharges must not cause pollution, contamination, or degradation to waters of the state. Coverage must be continued by the operator until the construction site is “finally stabilized.” Final stabilization means that areas of the construction site that do not have permanent structures such as buildings or roads must be revegetated with perennial vegetation to a uniform 70 percent of natural background cover.
The WDEQ WQD is also responsible for Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 water quality certification. Any project 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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are required to obtain a Section 401 water quality certification [Section 401(a)(1)] from the WDEQ/WQD. A joint WDEQ and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) public notice is issued prior to the issuance of all individual 404 permits by the usage. There is no public notice prior to the authorization of any activity under a Section 404 nationwide or statewide general permit from the state of Wyoming.
Certification under Section 401 can be granted under the nationwide permitting process for most areas in Wyoming. However, an Individual 404 Permit and certification would be required for crossing of Class I waters. Because of the high level of protection afforded to these waters by the regulations, authorization of the activities covered by the nationwide permitting process without individual departmental review is not permissible. A list of Class I waters can be found on the WDEQ website.
Air Quality Assessment Process
In Wyoming, the construction of a transmission line within the state does not require a construction permit from the WDEQ Air Quality Division (AQD). However, the AQD is a reviewer of the WISA permit application. The WISA permit application reports plans for fugitive dust control and methods to assure compliance with fugitive dust regulations (e.g. truck speed, remedy of complains) as required by W.S. 35-12-109(a)(x). The AQD recommends approval or denial of the permit, recommends permit conditions and states regulatory jurisdiction (if any) over the project.
A permit would be required if construction and operation of a batch plant is necessary for the construction of transmission structures. Permit requirements for the batch plant are stipulated under WDEQ AQD, Standards and Regulations, Chapter 6, Permitting Requirements.
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.
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. 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 Wyoming, impacts to scenic resources must be evaluated and are reviewed as part of the WISA permit process as noted above; however, no specific guidelines or methodologies are required for conducting the visual impact assessment. Developers should review local government resource management plans, comprehensive plans, regulations, etc. to identify any permit requirements as they relate to visual resources.
Waste & Hazardous Material
Permits as they relate to regulated quantities of waste and hazardous materials do not typically apply to transmission line projects; however, applicants should review federal, state, and local laws and regulations for permits that may be applicable. Some ancillary facilities such as certain types of substations may require compliance with state and federal waste and hazardous materials regulations.
Local Environment Process
The local regulatory authorities include counties and incorporated city governments within the state of Wyoming. In Wyoming, transmission line projects that incur a construction cost of $186.1 million and are 160 kV or more are under the permitting jurisdiction of the state (and go through the WISA Permit process), however local government permitting requirements, including environmental review, may apply.
Policies & Regulations
- An Introduction to Electric Power Transmission
- CHAT: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools
- Environmental Recommendations for Transmission Planning
- Market-Based Wildlife Mitigation in Wyoming
- Market-based Wildlife Mitigation in Wyoming: A Primer
- Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Website
- Wyoming Game and Fish Department Geospatial Data
- Wyoming Interagency Spatial Database & Online Management