7-WA-a Power Plant Siting Process
Under RCW 80.50.60(1) a developer may not begin construction of a new energy facility site until they obtain Energy Facility Siting certification from the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC). Developers of “alternative” energy resource projects may choose to receive certification from EFSEC, but it is not required. RCW 80.50.060(2). “Alternative energy resources” include wind, solar energy, geothermal energy, landfill gas, wave or tidal action, or biomass energy based on solid organic fuels from wood, forest, or field residues. RCW 80.50.020(1). Developers may choose to obtain this certification regardless of the generating capacity of the project. RCW 80.50.060(2).
The certification is the state licensing process for the siting, construction, and operation of an energy project. EFSEC consists of an EFSEC chair and a representative from each of the following state agencies: Department of Commerce, Department of Ecology, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and Utilities and Transportation Commission.Through this certification, many permit requirements for the overall project may be satisfied. Should the developer choose to undertake this certification, they will need to work closely with EFSEC to determine which permit processes will be streamlined under this certification. The effect of obtaining this certification is that the certification will be in lieu of any permit, certificate or similar document required by any department, agency, division, bureau, commission, board, or political subdivision of Washington state, whether they are a member of EFSEC or not. RCW 80.50.120(3).
7-WA-a.1 – Conduct Preliminary Site Study (Optional)
The developer may choose to conduct a preliminary site study to assess whether to proceed with an application.
7-WA-a.2 to 7-WA-a.3 – Has SEPA Review been Conducted?
Before a developer may go through the Energy Facility Siting Process they must complete at least an environmental checklist as required under the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The developer may choose to submit an environmental checklist with their application for certification.
If the developer chooses to go through the EFSEC certification process, then EFSEC will be made the lead agency for purposes of SEPA environmental review. EFSEC will work with the developer to integrate SEPA and Power Plant Siting processes.
7-WA-a.4 to 7-WA-a.5 – Have Necessary Air Quality Permits been Obtained?
The developer should begin the air quality permitting process before submitting their application for Energy Facility Siting. All required air permits must be included in the EFSEC’s recommendation to the Governor.
7-WA-a.6 to 7-WA-a.7 – Have Necessary Water Permits been Obtained?
The developer should begin the water permitting process before submitting their Application for Energy Facility Siting. All required water permits must be included in the EFSEC’s recommendation to the Governor.
7-WA-a.8 to 7-WA-a.9 – Has a Land Use Consistency Certification been Obtained?
The developer should begin the Land Use Consistency Certification process before submitting their application for Energy Facility Siting. The Land Use Consistency Certification must be included in the EFSEC’s recommendation to the Governor.
7-WA-a.10 – Application for Site Certification
The Application for Site Certification must comply with the requirements outlined in WAC 463-60.
7-WA-a.11 – Conduct Application Review
EFSEC begins application review upon receipt of the application. EFSEC retains an independent consultant to ascertain if the information submitted in the application conforms to the requirements in WAC 463-60. The application must specify how the project will meet construction and operational standards and include information and details of the design, methods of construction, and operation of the proposed facility that will ensure a clean and safe environment.
7-WA-a.12 – Hold Initial Public Meeting
The EFSEC must hold an initial public meeting on the proposed project no later than 60 days after receipt of the application. The purpose of the meeting is to allow the developer to explain the proposed project to EFSEC. The public is allowed to present written or oral testimony relating to the proposed project.
7-WA-a.13 – Hold Land Use Hearing
Following the initial public hearing, EFSEC must conduct a public hearing to determine whether or not the proposed site is consistent and in compliance with city, county, or regional land use plans or zoning ordinances. If EFSEC determines that the proposed site does conform with existing land use plans or zoning ordinances in effect as of the date of the application, the city, county, or regional planning authority must not change the land use plans or zoning ordinances so as to affect the proposed site. RCW 80.50.090(2).
7-WA-a.14 – Provide Notice of Adjudicative Proceedings
EFSEC is required to provide formal notice of adjudicative proceedings before commencing the proceedings. The notice must be served on all parties at least 20 days in advance of the initial hearing date.
7-WA-a.15 – Conduct Pre-Hearing Conference
EFSEC upon its own motion or at the request of a party may direct the parties to participate in a pre-hearing conference to consider various issues with the application. Following the pre-hearing conference, EFSEC must issue an order describing the actions taken at the pre-hearing conference. If no objection to the order is filed within ten days after the order is mailed it must control the remainder of the certification proceedings. WAC 463-30-270.
7-WA-a.16 – Conduct Adjudicative Proceedings
Before EFSEC may provide a recommendation to the Governor, they must conduct a public hearing as an adjudicative proceeding under RCW 34.05, the administrative procedure act. At the public hearing any person is entitled to be heard in support of or in opposition to the application for certification. RCW 80.50.090(3).
EFSEC’s adjudicatory proceeding is a formal hearing process similar to courtroom proceedings. EFSEC hears from the parties to the proceedings.
7-WA-a.17 – Draft Site Certification Agreement (SCA)
EFSEC must prepare a Draft Site Certification Agreement (SCA) to forward to the Governor with their recommendations.
7-WA-a.18 – Recommendation to Governor and Associated Documents
EFSEC forwards the Draft Site Certification Agreement to the Governor for review. EFSEC must report to the Governor their recommendations as to the approval or rejection of an application for certification within twelve months of receipt of such application.
If the project requires the following documents, then they must be included in the recommendation to the Governor:
- Air quality permits;
- Water permits;
- Land Use Consistency Certification; and
- Final EIS.
Every recommendation to the Governor must:
- Be correctly captioned to identify EFSEC and the name of the proceeding;
- Identify all parties and representatives participating in the proceeding;
- Include a concise statement on the nature and background of the proceeding;
- Contain appropriate numbered findings of fact;
- Contain appropriate numbered conclusions of law, including citations to statutes and rules relied upon;
- Contain a recommendation disposing of all contested issues;
- Contain such other information deemed appropriate by the council; and
- Contain a statement describing the parties’ rights to reconsideration or other administrative relief. WAC 463-30-320.
7-WA-a.19 – Review Draft Site Certification Agreement
The Governor has 60 days to consider EFSEC’s recommendation and may take one of the following actions:
- Approve EFSEC’s recommendation and execute the Draft SCA;
- Reject the application; or
- Direct EFSEC to reconsider certain aspects of the project and Draft SCA.
If the Governor instructs EFSEC to reconsider aspects of the application, then the developer may be required to amend the Draft SCA based on suggestions by EFSEC.
7-WA-a.20 to 7-WA-a.21– Does the Governor Approve the Draft SCA?
The Governor’s determination to reject the application is final. However, the developer may submit a subsequent application for the same site on the basis of changed conditions or new information. RCW 80.50.100(4).
7-WA-a.22 – Site Certification Agreement (SCA)
If the Governor chooses to approve the application, then the Governor will execute the certification agreement. The certification agreement is binding upon execution by the Governor and the developer. RCW 80.50.100(2)(b).