RAPID/BulkTransmission/Montana/Land Access

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RAPIDRegulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Montana Bulk Transmission Land Access(3-MT)

Certificate of Compliance

The state of Montana has a state-administered siting act for high voltage transmission lines, the 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 and to provide environmental review. [2]

Montana law requires that all proposed transmission lines with a voltage over 69kV obtain a CC from the MDEQ; [2] a combined permitting and siting process.

Easement / Land Use License

The Montana Trust Land Management Division manages the State of Montana's trust land resources to produce revenue for trust beneficiaries. Montana’s state trust lands comprise approximately 5.1 million surface acres and 6.2 million mineral acres.

The Real Estate Management Bureau within the Montana Trust Land Management Division reviews and processes applications for rights-of-way and easements across trust lands and navigable waterways.

If the project requires the use of or access across state lands the developer must submit an application for a right-of-way or easement to the Montana State Land Board (MSLB). [3] If the project requires a casual use of state lands prior to the issuance of a full lease, developers may submit a Land Use License Application to the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (MDNRC). The MDNRC will only award a Land Use License if the use is compatible with the MDNRC’s multiple use objective. [4]

State Highway Encroachment

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDOT) issues permits for encroachments on state highway ROWs. Encroachments include the building of new approaches, the installation, maintenance, and operation of utility facilities such as pipe lines, pole lines, buried cable, and conduits, and other activities that may affect the right of way. Depending on the type of encroachment, developers may submit an Encroachment Permit Application or an Application for Right of Way Easement for Utilities Through State Lands.

Local 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. The Montana Municipal Zoning Enabling Act [5] empowers cities and towns to control zoning and building, while the Montana County Planning and Zoning Commission Act [6] allows counties to adopt zoning ordinances. Land use permits will be required for each local government associated with the transmission lines, however, regulations will vary. Requirements and permits needed for construction of a transmission line will vary by county and municipality. Some or all of the following elements as they relate to land access, may be required:

  • Special Use permit
  • Conditional Use permit
  • Development Agreement
  • Site Improvement permit
  • ROW Encroachment permit/ROW grant
  • Road Improvement Plan Approval
  • Site Development Plan

The MDEQ can refuse to apply any local law or regulation, including zoning, if it finds that as applied to the proposed facility, the law or regulation is unreasonably restrictive in view of the existing technology, cost and need of consumers.[7]

More Information

Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.

Permitting at a Glance

Montana Federal

Right of Way Agency: Montana State Land Board
State Land Right of Way Process: Transmission developers of projects crossing state lands must submit an application for a right-of-way or easement to the Montana State Land Board. If the project requires casual use of state lands prior to the issuance of a full lease, the project developer may submit a Land Use License Application to the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation.
State Highway Right of Way Agency: Montana Department of Transportation
State Highway Right of Way Process: Developers of transmission projects that are new or require maintenance and are encroaching on state highways may submit applications for an Encroachment Permit or a Right of Way Easement for Utilities Through State Lands Montana State Land Board An electric power corporations "is authorized to install its respective plants...necessary for service and to supply and distribute electricity for lighting...along and upon any of the public roads, streets, and highways in the state." Mont. Code Ann. § 69-4-101.
Eminent Domain: A public utility, any public or private supplier of power, may acquire property for public use "to provide service to the customers of its regulated service." Mont. Code Ann. § 69-3-113.

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List of Reference Sources

  1. Montana Code 75-20 (2014).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Montana Code 75-20-201 (2014).
  3. Montana Rule 36.2.10 General State Land Rules (2014). 1001
  4. Montana Rule 36.25.1 Surface Management Rules (2014). 136
  5. Montana Code 76-2-301 (2014).
  6. Montana Code 76-2-201 (2014).
  7. Montana Code 75-20-301 (2014). (e)