RAPID/Geothermal/Washington/Environment

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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Washington Geothermal Environmental Review(9-WA)

The Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires all governmental agencies to consider the environmental impacts of a proposal before making decisions. A geothermal project will be subject to SEPA if a state or local agency decision is necessary for their project. The developer’s project may be covered by a categorical exemption for which SEPA review is not required. WAC 197-11-305. For example, permits from the Washington Department of Natural Resources for drilling for which no public hearing is required under RCW 78.60.070 are exempted from SEPA requirements (geothermal test drilling). WAC 197-11-830. A lead agency must be chosen to comply with SEPA’s procedural requirements for the project. The lead agency is determined using the criteria outlined in WAC 197-11-926 through WAC 197-11-944. If the developer’s project is covered by an existing state environmental document or a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document, then the developer will be given the opportunity to adopt the existing document. WAC 197-11-965. Developers may also conduct NEPA and SEPA review simultaneously.

Developers must complete an Environmental Checklist and submit it to the lead agency. The Environmental Checklist assists the lead agency in determining whether the proposal will likely result in negative impacts on the environment. Following the lead agency’s review of the Environmental Checklist, either a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) or a Determination of Significance (DS) will be issued. WAC 197-11-330. If the lead agency determines that the project will not have a probable adverse impact on the environment, then the lead agency will complete a DNS WAC 197-11-970. The lead agency will provide public notice of the DNS, and the developer may be required to participate in a public hearing. WAC 197-11-535.

If the lead agency determines that the project will have a probable adverse impact on the environment, then an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be required. WAC 197-11-360. The lead agency must conduct a scoping analysis to narrow the scope of the EIS to the probable significant adverse impacts and reasonable alternatives, including mitigation measures. WAC 197-11-408. The lead agency will develop a draft EIS, and make the draft available for public comment. Developers may be required to participate in a public hearing. WAC 197-11-535(2). The lead agency will then issue a final EIS following review of all comments. WAC 197-11-460.

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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

Washington Federal

Environmental Review Process: The Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires all governmental agencies to consider the environmental impacts of a proposal before making decisions. National Environmental Policy Act
Environmental Review Process Agency: Washington Department of Natural Resources United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Energy, United States Department of Defense
Type of Environmental Review (Invasive Exploration): Permits from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for drilling for which no public hearing is required under RCW 79.76.070 are exempted from SEPA requirements (geothermal test drilling). WAC 197-11-830. Temperature Gradient Holes are permitted under a categorical exclusion and subject to the same conditions as non-invasive exploration as discussed above. Any other exploration drilling activity to confirm the existence of a geothermal resource will likely require an EA.
Type of Environmental Review (Drilling): Permits from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for drilling for which no public hearing is required under RCW 79.76.070 are exempted from SEPA requirements (geothermal test drilling). WAC 197-11-830. Production drilling activities will likely require an EA, but depending on the nature of the specific project, could require an EIS.
Type of Environmental Review (Power Plant Siting): SEPA environmental review Most Plans of Utilization (POU)s require an EA or EIS.

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