RAPID/Geothermal/Utah/Water Quality

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Utah Geothermal Water Quality Assessment(14-UT)

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, antidegradation reviews, and ground water quality protection.

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 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. 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. UAC R317-8-6.5.

Developers must obtain an Underground Injection Control Permit from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) if their project requires a new underground injection well. UAC R317-7-6.1. Certain types of injection wells, including geothermal wells, are authorized by rule under UAC R317-7-6.4 and do not require a Class V UIC Permit. However, DEQ may still require a permit under conditions outlined in UAC R317-7-6.4. If the DEQ determines that the project requires a Class V UIC Permit, then the developer must submit an Underground Injection Control Permit Application to DEQ for review. If the application is approved, then DEQ will issue a Draft UIC Permit, publish notice, and allow for comment.

Developers must obtain a 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. Developers must submit a 401 Water Quality Application to DWQ for review. UAC R317-15-4. 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. UAC R317-15-5.5. DWQ may approve the certification outright, or may impose conditions on approval. UAC R317-15-6.3.

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.

Developers must obtain a Ground Water Quality Protection Permit from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) if their project involves construction of a new facility or modification of an existing facility and will engage in the activities outlined in UAC R317-6-6. Developers may qualify for Permit by Rule under UAC R317-6-6.2, and will not be required to obtain a permit before constructing or modifying the facility. If a Groundwater Quality Protection Permit is required, developers must submit a completed application to DEQ for review. Following review, DEQ will issue a draft permit including any terms and conditions for operating the facility, provide public notice, and allow for comment. UAC R317-6-6.5. DEQ may make modifications to the final permit based on any comments submitted during review.

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