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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California BLM/CEC Joint Siting Process (7-CA-e)

In California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) has jurisdiction over the siting process for proposed thermal power plant projects 50 megawatts (MW) and over. In order to comply with the CEC’s siting process a developer must submit and complete an Application for Certification (AFC). As part of the AFC process, the CEC conducts an environmental review in order to determine whether the project meets the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

If the developer is attempting to build a thermal power plant on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the project will also be subject to the BLM’s siting process. A developer must apply for a right-of-way from the BLM in order to initiate the BLM’s siting process. The BLM’s siting process requires the proposed project to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In an attempt to avoid overlap of the environmental review process and streamline proposed power plant projects in California, the BLM and the CEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding which delegates certain responsibilities to each agency.

All information gathered during the combined siting process is shared between the BLM and CEC and both agencies will coordinate with each other during the entire process, not just the environmental review phase. If the proposed project meets all of the joint siting process requirements, the developer will receive a right-of-way from the BLM as well as a siting permit from the CEC.

Memorandum of Understanding


BLM/CEC Joint Siting Process Process

7-CA-e.1 – Pre-application Meetings (Optional)

The BLM and the CEC recommend that a developer attend pre-application meetings coordinated by both agencies. These meeting are intended to make the developer aware of all the necessary requirements and delegate a point of contact for the joint siting process. The pre-application meetings are also an opportunity for both the BLM and the CEC to discuss any initial concerns with the developer the agencies may have concerning the developer’s choice of project location.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (1).


7-CA-e.2 – Application for Certification (AFC)

In order to initiate the joint siting process, the developer must submit an AFC to the CEC. The AFC must include information concerning the site location, specific information concerning the proposed project, and any additional data that the CEC will need to approve the project.

For the specific requirements needed for a complete AFC see:

State Plant Commissioning Process, Application for Certification:
7-CA-a


7-CA-e.3 to 7-CA-e.4 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The CEC will review the AFC for completeness and request from the developer any additional information that the CEC needs before accepting the AFC. Once the CEC has accepted the AFC as complete, the CEC will confer with the BLM in order to ensure no additional information is needed by the BLM. The BLM will have 30 days to request any additional information from the developer.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (2)


7-CA-e.5 – Initiate Scope Meeting for CEQA/NEPA Documents

Once the AFC is complete and all the required information initially needed by both the BLM and CEC has been received, the agencies will conduct an initial scope meeting. The purpose of the initial scope meeting is to determine the issues that will need to be addressed for both the CEQA and NEPA processes. During this time the agencies will work together to list all the requirements that are needed for the proposed project to comply with federal and state law.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (2)


7-CA-e.6 – Hold Public Workshops

After the BLM and the CEC determine the initial issues that need to be addressed in order to comply with both the CEQA and NEPA processes, the agencies will hold joint public workshops. The workshops will be publicly listed and will discuss potential alternatives to the project, as well as any biological and cultural resource concerns the public may have about the project.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (2)


7-CA-e.7 – Conduct Project Alternatives and Purpose of and Need for Action Analysis

Once the joint public workshops have been completed, the BLM will conduct and prepare a Project Alternative Analysis and a Purpose of and Need for Action Analysis. Both of these documents are required by NEPA and have specific requirements.

For a list of specific requirements see:

BLM NEPA Process:
9-FD-a


7-CA-e.8 – Conduct Environmental, Reliability, and Mitigation Assessments

At the same time that the BLM is conducting the Project Alternative Analysis and a Purpose of and Need for Action Analysis, the CEC will separately conduct an Environmental Review, a Facility Reliability Review, and a Mitigation Identification Assessment. The environmental review will follow the CEQA process. The facility reliability review addresses the facility design engineering, efficiency, reliability, transmission system engineering and transmission line safety and nuisance. The CEC is also responsible for identifying any mitigation measures that may be considered in order to reduce any potential significant impacts.

Memorandum of Understanding

For the full list of CEQA requirements see:

State Environmental Review Process:
9-CA-a


7-CA-e.9 – Draft Preliminary Analyses

A draft preliminary analysis is prepared by both the BLM and the CEC staff. Each agency will share their analysis with the other at least 21 days prior to publication for public comment. Each agency will separately identify concerns it has about the other agency’s analysis and recommend changes within 10 days of receiving the draft analysis. After any concerns have been identified, the agencies will work together to resolve the concerns and make and changes that will be necessary to comply with federal and state law.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (4).


7-CA-e.10 to 7-CA-e.12 – Review for Additional Data Requirements

After the preliminary analyses have been exchanged and commented on by both the BLM and the CEC, any agency may require the developer to provide more information in order to complete a final staff assessment or a final impact statement. I

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (4).


7-CA-e.13 to 7-CA-e.14– Joint Final Staff Assessment/Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

In a combined effort, the BLM and the CEC will create a Joint Final Staff Assessment/Final Environmental Impact Statement. This document will reflect any potential environmental impacts, facility operating issues, or any other agency concerns that the BLM and the CEC may have. The joint report will be published and released for public comment. During the public comment period both agencies will provide witnesses and testimony that will explain the results found during the preliminary assessment.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (5).


7-CA-e.15 – Record of Decision

After completion of the Joint Final Staff Assessment/Final Environmental Impact Statement the BLM will prepare its Record of Decision (ROD). A ROD states the selected course of action that the BLM had decided upon for the proposed projects and includes any mitigation measure that the developer will be required to incorporate into the project. The ROD will released publicly and will explain the reasoning behind the BLM’s decision on whether to grant the developer a right-of-way for the use of federal land for the proposed project.

For more information about the ROD process see:

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Process:
9-FD-c


7-CA-e.16 – Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision

After completion of the Joint Final Staff Assessment/Final Environmental Impact Statement the CEC staff assigned to the proposed project will prepare the Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision (PMPD). The PMPD will be revised based on the public comment period and presented to the full Commission. The PMPD will set forth the suggested recommendation concerning the proposed project to the full Commission. The PMPD will be adopted, modified, or rejected by the full CEC Commission.

State Plant Commissioning Process, Application for Certification:
7-CA-a


7-CA-e.17 to 7-CA-21 – Does the BLM Approve the Right-of-Way?

Once the BLM has issued the ROD, the right-of-way is either granted to the developer or it is denied. If the right-of-way is granted then the developer has met the federal requirements to start construction on the proposed project. The developer will still need to be issued the siting permit from the CEC before beginning construction. If the developer is denied the right-of-way an appeal may be made to the Interior Board of Land Appeals for reconsideration. If the appeal is denied the project may not proceed.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (6)


7-CA-e.22 to 7-CA-26 – Does the CEC Approve the Siting Permit?

After the PMPD is presented by the CEC staff to the full CEC Commission, the Commission will vote on its approval. If the PMPD is approved without any modifications, the developer will be issued a siting permit and the proposed project will be approved by the CEC. Where the BLM has issued the developer the right-of-way prior to the CEC issuing the siting permit, the developer will be able to begin construction upon receiving the siting permit; however, if the right-of-way is not granted first, the developer will need to obtain a right-of-way from the BLM before beginning construction on federally owned land. If the Commission decides that the PMPD must be modified, the PMPD will be revised and resubmitted to the full Commission. If the PMPD is denied by the full Commission, the developer may appeal to the Commission to reconsider its decision. If the Commission denies the appeal the project may not proceed.

Memorandum of Understanding, section III (6).




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