Oregon Bulk Transmission Transmission & Interconnection(8-OR)
The electrical grid in Oregon is part of the Western Interconnection power grid and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) is the Regional Entity responsible for coordinating and promoting Bulk Electric System reliability in the Western Interconnection, including Oregon. WECC also provides an environment for coordinating the operating and planning activities of its members as set forth in the WECC Bylaws.
The Northern Tier Transmission Group (NTTG) is one of the major regional transmission planning entities working to improve available transmission capacity, plan for grid expansion in seven western states, including Oregon. NTTG member utilities are transmission owners who are working in conjunction with state governments, customers, and other stakeholders to improve the operations of and chart the future for the grid that links all of these service territories.
The following companies/organizations provide transmission in the State of Oregon: Idaho Power, Avista, Columbia River Public Utility District, Emerald Public Utility District, Eugene Water & Electric Board, Pacificorp, Portland General Electric, Salem Electric, Tillamook Public Utility District, West Oregon Electric Cooperative, Columbia Grid, Northern Tier Transmission Group, and Bonneville Power Administration.
Oregon Energy Policy
The Oregon Department of Energy’s Governor’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan develops a comprehensive energy strategy that meets the state’s carbon reduction, energy conservation and renewable energy goals and timetables. The plan addresses transmission constraints and identifies improving and planning transmission infrastructure as part of one of its main strategies.
The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), Energy Facility division has the authority to site most high-voltage transmission lines within the state. For transmission siting, the Energy Facility division provides “one stop shopping” for the permitting of transmission lines in the state, along with certain other energy related projects. Permit approval is granted by the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC), a seven member citizen board and they participate in the coordinated review of project impacts. Although the ODOE is a stand-alone agency and not part of the Governor’s Office, EFSC members are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate. State standards must be met outright or met with mitigating measures.
Staff of the EFSC regularly participates in round-tables and policy groups, but primarily focus on the review of submitted applications for site certificates, amendment of existing site certificates, and enforcement of contract development between the State and operator. The process is an evidentiary based process that culminates in public hearings focused on the analysis and evaluation of information presented in the application for site certificate. The EFSC and their staff also participate in educational opportunities to describe the details of the process to interested stakeholders.
In Oregon, before a large energy facility can be constructed, the developer must receive a site certificate from the EFSC. The types of energy facilities subject to Council jurisdiction are defined by statute in O.R.S. 469.300(11). Some types of energy facilities that would otherwise need a site certificate are exempt from Council jurisdiction under Oregon statutes. Oregon’s siting process differs from permitting processes in other states and state and local agencies in Oregon in that:
- The use of specific standards is used for determining compliance. The specific standards are intended to protect natural resources, ensure public safety and protect against adverse environmental impacts;
- This is essentially a “one-stop” process in which the EFSC determines compliance with specific standards of the EFSC and other state and local permitting agencies;
- Public comment periods occur in the beginning of the process, with a formal contested case proceeding;
- Applicants can appeal a decision issued by EFSC directly to the Supreme Court for judicial review. 
The standard siting process consists of two major phases 1) Notice of Intent and 2) Application. Each of these phases is described below.
- Notice of Intent (NOI)
An applicant must submit an NOI to the EFSC and the ODOE, unless the project qualifies for expedited review (see OAR 345-015-0300). The purpose of the NOI is to provide the EFSC and ODOE with sufficient information regarding the proposed facility in order for a Project Order to be issued. O.A.R. 345-020-0011 describes the required information to be included in the NOI, which includes Information about the applicant; detailed information about the proposed facility; a description of the proposed location of the facility and alternative corridors (for transmission lines); and all applicable federal, state and local governmental permits. The applicant must also indicate in the NOI whether they intend to obtain local land use approval (under O.R.S. 469.504(I)(a)), or whether the EFSC will make that determination (under O.R.S. 469.504(I)(b)). The NOI also triggers the first of several public involvement tasks and is used to gather public comments about the proposed project.
The NOI is also required to identify significant potential environmental impacts that may occur as a result of the construction and operation of the proposed facility on the study areas, including impacts affecting:
- Air quality
- Surface and ground water quality and availability
- Wildlife habitat
- Threatened and endangered plant and animal species
- Historic, cultural and archaeological resources
- Scenic and aesthetic areas
- Land use
Upon reviewing the NOI, the ODOE will issue a Project Order. The Project Order identifies applicable statutes, rules, ordinances, permit requirements, and any special information needed for the application. In addition, the Project Order defines the analysis areas over which the application must assess the facilities potential impacts, which will be determined by the ODOE and be based on the type of facility being proposed and its location. The ODOE must issue a Project Order within 140 days after receiving an NOI. An applicant may not submit a Preliminary Application until a Project Order has been issued by the ODOE. Once the Project Order is received, the applicant has two years from the date the NOI was submitted to submit an application for a site certification, if not the NOI expires.
2. Application for a Site Certificate
Typically a preliminary application is submitted first and is considered “preliminary” until it is determined by the ODOE that the application is complete. The agency has 60 days to deem the application complete, or provide notice to the applicant that the submittal is incomplete and that additional information is required. The content of the NOI is designed to match the contents of the application; however, the application requires more detailed information. The Project Order and the requirements of O.A.R. 345-021-0010 define the content of the application, which includes a detailed description of the proposed site, the proposed facility, and the anticipated impacts. 
For transmission line projects, the applicant selects the final proposed corridor which is included in the preliminary application; however, the applicant has the option of requesting a site certificate that includes alternative corridors. Criteria for corridor selection is included in O.A.R. 345-021-0010(1)(b)(D). The preliminary application must also indicate if the applicant wishes to seek land use approval from local jurisdictions or have the EFSC make the land use determination. Once the decision has been made, an applicant cannot change their decision. During their review of the preliminary application, the ODOE may request additional information that they find is necessary to make an application complete. Once the ODOE has determined that that application is complete, the ODOE will consult with state and local agencies and request their comments and proposed site certificate conditions. The ODOE will then prepare and issue a Draft Proposed Order (as provided under O.R.S. 469.370) on the application, which includes proposed findings of fact, recommended conclusions on compliance with EFSC standards, and recommended site certificate conditions for construction, operation and retirement of the proposed facility. The ODOE issues a public notice of the Draft Proposed Order which includes a notice of a public hearing on the Draft Proposed Order. Notice of the public hearing must be mailed at least 20 days before the hearing.  O.R.S. 460.370 includes the specific notification requirements. Anyone having a concern with the proposed facility must raise the issue on the record at the public hearing. A person must raise the issue in person at the public hearing or submit a written comment to the ODOE within the deadline included in the notice. Upon conclusion of the public hearing, the ODOE reviews the Draft Proposed Order taking into consideration comments from the EFSC, public comments on record of the public hearing and consultation with state and local government agencies, and then issues a Proposed Order.
As mandated by O.R.S. 469.370(5), once a Proposed Order from the ODOE has been issued, the EFSC then conducts a contested case hearing on the application for the site certificate. The applicant is automatically considered a party in the contested hearing, and only persons who publicly commented (in person or in writing) during the public hearing may request party status. Issues that may be the basis for a contested case are limited to those raised during the public hearing and are on record. If there is no challenge of the ODOE’s Proposed Order then the contested case hearing is concluded and the Proposed Order is forwarded to the EFSC who will issue a final order, either approving or rejecting an application. In making a decision to issue a site certificate, the EFSC not only determines compliance with its own standards (as outlined in O.A.R. Chapter 345, Division 22 and O.R.S. 469.501), but also considers applicable rules and ordinances of state and local agencies. If a state or local authority would normally issue a permit, certificate or license that would address some aspect of a proposed facility; under the EFSC site certificate process, the decision to approve that permit, certificate or license is made by the EFSC. The EFSC’s decision is binding on all state and local agencies whose permits, certificates or licenses are addressed in the EFSC’s review. After the site certificate is issued any affected state agency, county, city and political subdivision must promptly issue the permit, licenses and certificates that were addressed in the site certificate. Each state or local government agency that issues a permit, license or certificate will continue to exercise enforcement authority over the permit, license or certificate. However, EFSC retains the authority over the site for which the site certificate is issued and may inspect or direct other agencies to inspect the site at any time in order to assure that the facility is being operated in compliance with the terms and conditions of the site certificate.
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: http://www.oregon.gov/energy/Siting/Pages/process.aspx.
Also available through the website are the Guidelines for Applicants for Energy Facility Site Certificates document prepared by the EFSC.
When an applicant files a preliminary application for site certification with the EFSC, the applicant must decide whether to seek local land use approval or have the determination made by the EFSC (which includes compliance with statewide planning goals). Applicants choosing to seek approval from local governments must follow local procedures and comply with all local land use ordinances. Under state law, Oregon counties and cities are required to have a comprehensive land use plan and implementing regulations. Local review and permitting of a transmission line project will vary depending on the local government entity affected. However, if a proposed transmission line is to be located in an Exclusive Farm Use Zone (EFU) or a forest zone, then the applicant would be subject to standards set forth in O.R.S. 215 and Land Conservation and Development Commission’s administrative rule on agricultural land (O.A.R. Chapter 660, Division 33) and forest lands (O.A.R. Chapter 660, Division 6). The EFSC will issue a site certificate for a project only if the proposed facility has received local land use approval under the acknowledged comprehensive plan and land use regulations of the affected local government.
If the applicant requests a land use determination by the EFSC, then the EFSC must find that the proposed facility is in compliance with all applicable local jurisdictional standards. The EFSC will request the local official to identify any “applicable substantive criteria” of local land use ordinance and comprehensive plans that should be considered when making a land use determination.
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.
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List of Reference Sources
- Oregon Department of Energy. Oregon Siting Process [Internet]. Salem, Oregon. State of Oregon. [cited 2014/09/29]. Available from: http://www.oregon.gov/energy/Siting/Pages/process.aspx
- O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0006(1)
- O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0011
- O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0011(j)
- O.A.R. 345-015 (2014). 0160(1)(f)
- O.A.R. 345-015 (2014). 0160(5)
- O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0060
- O.A.R. 345-020 (2014). 0011)
- O.R.S. 469 (2014). 370
- O.A.R. 345-015 (2014). 0230(3)
- O.R.S. 469 (2014). 370.2
- O.R.S. 469 (2014). 430
- O.R.S. 469 (2014). 504(4)
- Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development - Farmland Protection Program [Internet]. Salem, Oregon. State of Oregon. [cited 2014/09/29]. Available from: http://www.oregon.gov/LCD/Pages/farmprotprog.aspx
- O.R.S. 469 (2014). 504(A)
- O.R.S. 469 (2014). 504(5)