Geothermal Environment in Montana
At a Glance
|Environmental Review Process:||If a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) .|
|Environmental Review Agency:||Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Leasing Stage):||None|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Non-invasive Exploration):||None|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration):||MEPA review process|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Drilling):||MEPA review process|
|Type of State Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting):||MEPA review process|
|Contacts/Agencies:||Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Environmental Quality Council, Montana State Historic Preservation Office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, United States Environmental Protection Agency|
State Environment Process
Montana Environmental Policy Act Review Process
If a project requires a state agency action, the agency and the developer must comply with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) unless the activities are otherwise exempt/excluded under Rule 17-4-607(5). MEPA is a procedural statute requiring public notice/comment and the consideration of alternatives, similar to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The MDEQ and the Montana Environmental Quality Council may be consulted by either the responsible agency or the developer during the MEPA process.
Cultural Resource Assessment Process
Typically, early consultation and close coordination with the Montana State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is necessary to prevent the inadvertent disruption of a historical site.
If heritage property or paleontological remains (hereafter “cultural resources”) are discovered on the project site, developers must comply with Montana state law. The discovery of cultural resources may require obtaining a permit and providing public notice and notice to Indian Tribes. Heritage property and paleontological remains are defined in Section 22-3-421 MCA. If the developer discovers cultural resources on any lands owned by the state, the developer must promptly report the presence of cultural resources to the SHPO and the MDNRC and take all reasonable steps to ensure preservation of the cultural resources. MCA 22-3-435. Upon a cultural resource discovery, the MDNRC will consult with the SHPO and determine whether it is necessary to prepare an antiquities inventory for the project area. After preparing an antiquities inventory (if required), the MDNRC considers the potential project effects and may require mitigation measures or excavation in order for the project to continue.
Biological Resource Assessment Process
Developers should consult with biologists within the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) division to determine whether protected wildlife habitats will be affected by the project. The MFWP will suggest approaches for avoiding or mitigating damage to local ecosystems.
Water Resource Assessment Process
Geothermal developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, NPDES permitting, underground injection control, 401 water quality certification, and groundwater discharge.
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) administers a voluntary regulatory Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program to control the impacts of nonpoint source pollution. The MDEQ program consists of public awareness, cooperation with other agencies and land owners, and the application of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Developers may choose to comply with the program.
Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. Montana has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The MDEQ issued NPDEs permits in accordance with EPA regulations and MCA 75-5-402. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.
The EPA has not delegated authority to Montana to regulate Class V underground injection control wells. Developers seeking underground injection control wells for geothermal activities must receive authority from Region 8 of the EPA.
Developers must obtain a 401 Water Quality Certification from the MDEQ if their project implicates any 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. The MDEQ has developed administrative rules for water quality certification under Rules of 17.30.101 -17.30.109.
If the project will impact groundwater in any of the below mentioned ways, the developer must obtain a groundwater discharge permit. The MDEQ protects groundwater quality through issuing groundwater discharge permits under MCA 75-5-101 and Rule 17-30-10 for activities that impact groundwater quality such as surface disposal, septic systems, unlined ponds, overland flow, reuse and irrigation.
Air Quality Assessment Process
Developers may be required to obtain an air quality permit for their project based on the requirements outlined in the Clean Air Act of Montana and implementing regulations ( Rule 17-8). Generally, facilities with the potential to emit more than 25 tons per year of any airborne pollutant, other than lead, require a Montana air quality permit.
Waste and Hazardous Material Assessment Process
For projects that require the installation of an underground storage tank, developers are required to obtain approval from the MDEQ. Developers may also be required to obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit and a Waste Disposal Permit.
The MDEQ administers the Underground Storage Tank (UST) Program for the State of Montana. Before any underground storage activities commence, the developer must notify the MDEQ. MCA 75-11-501 et seq. - Montana Underground Storage Tank Act. The MDEQ process is guided by Rule 17-56.
Developers must obtain a Hazardous Waste Permit from the MDEQ if their project facility will treat, store, dispose, or transport hazardous waste. MCA 75-10-4 and Rule 17-53. Montana’s applicable hazardous waste statute and regulations are based on the federal regulations: Title 40 CFR 260-270 Hazardous Waste
Local Environment Process
Policies & Regulations
- ARM 17-30 - Water Quality
- An Introduction to Electric Power Transmission
- CAPS: Crucial Areas Planning System
- CHAT: Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools
- EPA Class V Permitting Authorities Website
- Environmental Recommendations for Transmission Planning
- Major Facility Siting Program - Circular 2
- Montana 2012 Final Water Quality Integrated Report
- Montana 2012 Final Water Quality Integrated Report: Appendix A
- Montana 2012 Report on Selected Heritage Properties
- Montana 310 Permit Database
- Montana 319 Projects (Nonpoint Source Programs) Wiki
- Montana 401 Water Quality Certification Webpage
- Montana Air Quality Program Laws & Rules Webpage
- Montana Association of Conservation Districts Webpage
- Montana Board of Water Well Contractors Handbook
- Montana Board of Water Well Contractors Webpage
- Montana Building with Wildlife Guide
- Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Website
- Montana Construction Dewatering General Permit - Example Authorization
- Montana Construction Dewatering General Permit Application Information
- Montana Cultural Records Webpage
- Montana Disinfected Water and Hydrostatic Testing General Permit
- Montana Domestic Sewage Treatment Lagoons General Permit
- Montana Domestic Sewage Treatment Lagoons General Permit Fact Sheet
- Montana Domestic Sewage Treatment Lagoons General Permit Information
- Montana Environmental Policy Act Guide
- Montana Facilities Which Do Not Discharge Process Wastewater (MDEQ Form 2E)
- Montana Geographic Information Library
- Montana Ground Water Pollution Control System Information Webpage
- Montana Ground Water Pollution Control System Permit Application Forms Webpage
- Montana Groundwater Information Center Webpage
- Montana Guide to the Streamside Management Zone Law & Rules Webpage
- Montana Hazardous Waste Program Webpage
- Montana Information for 310 Applicant
- Montana Joint Application for Proposed Work in Montana's Streams (DNRC Form 270)
- Montana Joint Application for Proposed Work in Streams, Lakes and Wetlands Webpage
- Montana MPDES General Information Form (MDEQ Form 1)
- Montana Natural Resources Conservation Service Webpage
- Montana Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act Webpage
- Montana Nonpoint Source FAQs Webpage
- Montana Notice of Intent: Domestic Sewage Treatment Lagoons General Permit (MDEQ Form NOI)
- Montana Notice of Intent: Domestic Sewage Treatment Lagoons General Permit Instructions
- Montana Notice of Intent: Sand and Gravel General Permit (MDEQ Form NOI)
- Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (MPDES) Webpage
- Montana Portable Suction Dredging General Permit - Example Authorization
- Montana Produced Water General Permit - Example Authorization
- Montana Public Water Supply Law and Rules Webpage
- Montana Restricted Use Permit Application
- Montana Sand and Gravel Operations General Permit - Example Authorization
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