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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

California Permit to Construct Power Lines (8-CA-f)

Unless exempted, electric public utilities must obtain a Permit to Construct from the California Public Utilities Commission before constructing power lines (electric power lines that are designed to operate between a voltage of 50kV and 200kV). Issuance of a Permit to Construct requires compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but generally does not require consideration of the need for, or economics of, the project.


A list of exemptions from section IX.B of General Order 131-D, which governs the requirements to obtain a Permit to Construct requirement, can be found in General Order 131-D. The list includes power lines that have undergone a CEQA review as part of a larger project. For example, when a Permit to Construct must be obtained for a generating facility and the power lines will connect the facility to the grid, and the CEQA review process includes the interconnection power lines, no additional Permit to Construct is required. Exempted power lines must still comply with section XI.B of General Order 131-D, which governs the notice requirements for power lines.


Permit to Construct Power Lines Process

8-CA-e.1 - Application for Permit to Construct and Proponent's Environmental Assessment (PEA)

The developer must submit an Application for a Permit to Construct and the Proponent's Environmental Assessment or equivalent information on the environmental impact of the project in accordance with the provisions of the CEQA and CPUC's Rules of Practice and Procedure 17.1 and 17.3. If the developer submits a PEA, the PEA may include the data required for a complete application described below. The in addition to the PEA, the Application for Permit to Construct must include:

  • A description of the proposed transmission line or substation facilities, including the proposed transmission line equipment, and a schedule of authorization, construction, and commencement of operation of the facilities;
  • A map of the proposed power line routing or substation location showing populated areas, parks, recreational areas, scenic areas, and existing electrical transmission or power lines within 300 feet of the proposed route or substation;
  • Reasons for adoption of the selected power line route or substation location, including a comparison with alternative routes or locations and the advantages and disadvantages of each;
  • A listing of government agencies that have reviewed the proposed transmission line route or substation location, including a written agency response to applicant's written request for a brief position statement by that agency;


See General Order 131-D; Example of Notice of Application to Construct


8-CA-e.2 – Publish Notice and Notify Interested Parties

If the project is not exempt from section IX.B, notice must be given by the developer within ten days of filing the application. Notice must be provided by:

  • Direct mail to all of the parties listed in XI.B(A)(1) of See General Order 131-D;
  • Advertisement, not less than once a week, two weeks successively, in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation in the county or counties in which the proposed facilities will be located, the first publication to be not later than ten days after filing of the application; and
  • Posting a notice on-site and off-site where the project would be located.


See General Order 131-D, section XI.B(A).

If the project is exempt from section IX.b, the electric public utility must provide notice at least 30 days prior to the proposed construction date by:

  • Sending the notice to the planning director for each county or city where the utility proposed to construct the facility and the Executive Director of the California Energy Commission;
  • Providing notice by advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation in the county(ies) where the utility proposes to construct the facility at least one forty-five days before the utility proposed to begin construction. The advertisement must appear at least once a week for two consecutive weeks;
  • Posting a notice on-site and off-site where the utility intends to locate the facility;
  • Filing an informal advice letter with the CPUC CACD in accordance with General Order 96-A and with the CPUC Public Advisor, which includes a copy and distribution list of the notices required above.


See General Order 131-D, section XI.B(B).

In both cases, the notice must include:

  • The application number assigned by the CPUC or the advice letter number assigned to the utility;
  • A description of the proposed construction and the facilities, the facilities purpose, and the facilities location;
  • A summary of the measures taken or proposed by the facility to reduce potential exposure to electric and magnetic fields generated by the proposed facilities;
  • Instructions on obtaining or reviewing a copy of the application, including the Proponent’s Environmental Assessment or available equivalent; and
  • The applicable procedure for protesting the application or advice letter, including the grounds for protest, when the protest period expires, delivery address for the CPUC Docket Office, CPUC Commission Advisory and Compliance Division (CACD), and the applicant as well as how to contact the CPUC Public Advisor for assistance in filing a protest.


See General Order 131-D, section XI.B(C).


8-CA-e.3 to 8-CA-e.4 – Review Application materials for Completeness

Within 30 days after the filing of an Application for a Permit to Construct, the CPUC CACD must review the application and notify the utility if the application has any deficiencies in information or data. Thereafter, the utility has 30 days to correct the deficiencies or explain why it cannot correct the deficiencies and when it will be able to correct the deficiencies. See General Order 131-D, section IX.B(2).


8-CA-e.5 to 8-CA-e.6 – Did the CPUC Receive a Protest or Request for Public Hearing Within 30 Days of the Published Notice of Application?

If the CPUC CACD does not receive any protests or requests for a hearing within 30 days after the notice of application was mailed or published, CPUC may issue an ex parte decision on the application within the applicable time limits prescribed by Code Section 65920 et seq. (the Permit Streamlining Act). If a request for a public hearing or protest is received, CPUC conducts an investigation to determine whether to hold a public hearing. See General Order 131-D, section IX.B(6); General Order 131-D, section XII.


8-CA-e.7 – Send Notice to Interested Parties

If the CPUC CACD determines that a public hearing should be held on the Application for a Permit to Construct, the CACD sends notice to each person who is entitled to notice or who has requested a hearing. See General Order 131-D, section XII.


8-CA-e.8 – Hold Public Hearing

The CPUC holds a hearing on the Application for a Permit to Construct with an Administrative Law Judge to determine whether the public utility may build the transmission line facility. The Commission must issue a decision on the application after the hearing within the time limits prescribed by Government Code Section 65920 et seq. See General Order 131-D, section IX.B(6). The environmental review process must still be completed before a Permit to Construct can be granted.


8-CA-e.9 – Conduct Initial Environmental Study

The CPUC CACD conducts an initial environmental study to determine whether the facility will have environmental impacts that require the CACD to prepare an Environmental Impacts Report (EIR) or whether the CACD should file a Negative Declaration. See General Order 131-D, section IX.B(4).


8-CA-e.10 to 8-CA-e.13 – Does the CPUC Determine the Project Will Have A Significant Effect on the Environment

The CPUC CACD determines whether the project will have a significant effect on the environment. If the project does not have a significant effect on the environment the CACD prepares a Negative Declaration and approves the utility’s application for a Permit to Construct. In some cases, potential significant effects may be avoided if the utility agrees to revise its proposal, in which case the CPUC may adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration. If the CACD determines the project will have a significant impact on the environment, the CACD prepares an Environmental Impact Report and initiates the CEQA process. If an EIR is prepared, CPUC considers the following when determining whether to approve the application:

  • The severity and nature of the environmental effects;
  • The feasibility of mitigation;
  • The existence and feasibility of alternatives to the project; and
  • The benefits of the project.


See General Order 131-D, section IX.B(4)-(5).

State Environmental Review Process :
9-CA-a


8-CA-e.14 to 8-CA-e.15 – Does the CPUC Approve the Application for a Permit to Construct? Permit to Construct

If the CPUC approves the transmission line facility, the CPUC grants the public utility a Permit to Construct and the utility may begin building the transmission line. See General Order 131-D, section IX.B(3)-(5).






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