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Hydropower Transmission Siting and Interconnection Overview (8)

The siting of a hydroelectric facility will require the developer to consider issues related to associated transmission lines and interconnection of the generation facility to the electrical grid.

Pursuant to the Federal Power Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has jurisdiction over interconnection of wholesale generators that need to connect their generation facilities to a transmission system. FERC has authority over “public utilities,” which under 16 USC 824a(e) includes any person who owns or operates facilities subject to jurisdiction of FERC. This also includes any person who owns or operates a facility for the transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce and to the sale of electric energy at wholesale in interstate commerce. Interstate commerce has been interpreted broadly to include when the transmission system is interconnected and capable of transmitting electric energy across the state boundary, even if the contracting parties and the electrical pathway between them are in one state. See Florida Power & Light Company, 29 FERC, ¶ 61, 140 at 61, 291-92 (1984). To obviate the delays and lack of standardization that once discouraged merchant generators from entering the market place and thereby provided an unfair advantage to utilities that owned both transmission and generation facilities, FERC established a uniform set of procedures and agreements to govern the process of interconnecting to the grid.


A FERC hydropower license establishes access to federal lands for transmission lines sited within the FERC license boundary. However, the FERC license is subject to conditions set forth by the federal land management agency/agencies charged with the administration of federal lands that may be impacted by the proposed project. Federal land management agencies may also require the developer to obtain a right-of-way or special use authorization if transmission lines will cross over federal lands administered by those agencies. The conditions of the right-of-way or special use authorization may be similar to the conditions contained within the FERC license, but provide the land management agency with some limited, independent jurisdictional authority over the operation of the hydropower project as it pertains to the project’s potential to impact agency lands. For transmission lines located outside of the FERC license boundary, the developer will need to obtain access to federal lands through the relevant land management agency’s rights-of-way application process. These rights-of-way will also contain any mandatory terms and conditions the agency deems necessary for the protection of federal land resources.

If proposed transmission lines will cross private land, the developer must obtain a property right to use the land, which may be accomplished by purchasing the land or negotiating a lease with the private landowner. Alternatively, a FERC hydropower license may allow a developer to obtain private land within the FERC project boundary through the process of eminent domain.

If proposed transmission lines will cross state lands, the developer must obtain state land access from the appropriate state land manager and may be required to obtain authorization for interconnection to the grid from the appropriate state agency. For transmission lines located outside of the FERC license boundary, the state may also require the developer to obtain any necessary rights-of-way, encroachment permits, and/or a Certificate of Public Good, a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, or similar approval from the state utility regulatory authority. These permits ensure public and onsite safety; grid connection, accountability and transparency.”


Transmission Siting and Interconnection Overview Process

8.1 to 8.2 – Will the Transmission Facility Be within the Project Boundary of a FERC Licensed Project?

FERC hydropower licenses establish a project boundary encompassing a “complete unit of development” which includes all transmission lines and other structures located within the FERC license boundary. (FPA section 3(11)). FERC licenses establish access to federal lands for siting transmission lines. In addition, if the developer is unable to obtain the requisite land access to private lands through negotiation, FERC licenses confer the power of eminent domain which would, as a less desirable alternative, permit a developer to obtain private land required for siting transmission lines. However, developers will need to obtain state land access and interconnection to the grid as described in 8.3 to 8.13 (below).

FERC Hydropower Overview:
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8.3 to 8.6 – Will the Facility Be Owned or Operated by a Public Utility and Transmit Electric Energy in Interstate Commerce?

A “public utility” is defined by 16 U.S.C. 824(e) as “any person who owns or operates facilities subject to the jurisdiction of the [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] under this subchapter…” Public utilities that are subject to the jurisdiction of FERC are those that transmit electric energy in interstate commerce or sell electric energy at wholesale in interstate commerce. See 16 U.S.C. 824(b). Electric energy is transmitted in interstate commerce if it is “transmitted from a State and consumed at any point outside thereof; but only insofar as such transmission takes place within the United States.” See 16 U.S.C. 824(c).

FERC order No. 2003 applies to all public utilities that own, control or operate facilities used for transmitting electric energy in interstate commerce to have on file standard procedures and a standard agreement for interconnecting generators larger than 20 MW. For more information, see:

(See FERC Order No. 2003)

FERC Order No. 2003 Process for Interconnection:
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FERC Order No. 792 requires all public utilities that own, control, or operate facilities used for transmitting electric energy in interstate commerce to adopt standard rules for interconnecting new sources of electricity no larger than 20 megawatts (MW). FERC Order No. 792 continues the process begun in Order No. 2003 of standardizing the terms and conditions of interconnection service for interconnection customers of all sizes. For more information, see:

FERC Order No. 792 Process for Interconnection:
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8.7 to 8.10 – Will the Project Interconnect with the Local or Regional Power Grid?

The Federal Energy Administration Act requires certain developers of electric generating plants to submit an annual electric generator report to the US Energy Information Administration EIA (EIA), which collects and publishes data on the status of existing and proposed electric generating plants. Generally, the developer of a proposed hydropower project must provide information to the EIA if the project: 1) will interconnect with the local or regional power grid; 2) has a proposed nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater; and 3) is expected to begin commercial operation within five years. If these conditions are met, the developer must submit Form EIA-860 directly to the EIA, annually, between the first business day of January and the last business day of February. For proposed projects, the filing should reflect the most up to date information available at the time the filing is made. Form EIA-860; Form EIA-860 Instructions.

Alaska

For hydropower project’s located in Alaska, the developer must respond to the EIA-860 if the project is connected to a local or regional transmission or distribution system that supplies power to the public. Form EIA-860 Instructions.

Hawaii

For hydropower project’s located in Hawaii, the developer must respond to the EIA-860 if the project is connected to a local or regional transmission or distribution system that supplies power to the public. Form EIA-860 Instructions.

8.11 to 8.15 – Is the Transmission Facility in a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor?

Under Section 216(a) of the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. 824p (a)), the Secretary of Energy is required to conduct a study of electric transmission congestion, issue a report, and if necessary designate any geographic area experiencing transmission capacity constraints or congestion that adversely affects consumers as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor (NIETC).

Under Section 216(b) of the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. 824p (b)), FERC has jurisdiction over construction permits for transmission facilities in NIETCs used for the transmission of energy in interstate commerce if:

  • A state in which the transmission facility is to be constructed or modified does not have authority to approve the siting of the facility;
  • A state in which the transmission facility is to be constructed or modified does not have authority to consider the interstate benefits expected to be achieved by the proposed construction or modification of the facility;
  • The applicant for a permit is a transmitting utility under the Federal Power Act but does not qualify to apply for a permit or siting approval for the proposed project in a state because the applicant does not serve end-use customers in the state;
  • A state commission or other entity that has authority to approve the siting of the transmission facility has withheld approval for more than one year after the filing of an application seeking approval pursuant to applicable law or one year after the designation of the relevant NIETC, whichever is later (Note: This does not give FERC permitting authority when a state has affirmatively denied a permit application within the one year deadline, see Pedmont Envtl. Council v. FERC, 558 F.3d 304 (4th Cir. 2009); or
  • A state commission or other entity that has authority to approve the siting of the transmission facility has conditioned its approval in such a manner that the proposed construction or modification will not significantly reduce transmission congestion in interstate commerce or is not economically feasible. For more information, see:

FERC Electric Transmission Construction Permit:
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In states in which the DOE has designated an NIETC, the state may have its own NIETC route approval process. This process may be connected or separate from a state coordinated process for siting transmission facilities. The states of Washington and Idaho have processes applicable to NIETCs.

8.16 to 8.18 – Will All Associated Transmission Lines Be Sited as Part of the FERC Licensing Process?

If all associated transmission lines will be sited as part of the FERC licensing process (all lines are primary transmission lines), then the developer will not complete a separate process for transmission rights-of-way alone. If all transmission facilities will be sited under a FERC license, no additional permits are needed beyond those for access over state land and interconnection (discussed above).

However, if any transmission facility will not be sited under a FERC license, the developer will need to follow additional processes for siting and interconnecting transmission facilities as described in 8.17 to 8.20 (below). For all transmission not sited as part of the FERC licensing process, whether secondary lines or associated with an exempt project, the developer must obtain all necessary rights-of-way from the appropriate state or federal agency, or individual before construction can begin. Each agency has a different permitting process for transmission rights-of-way. The Section 3 overview will direct the user to the appropriate permitting process. For more information, see:

Land Access:
3

8.19 to 8.20 – Does the State Have a Comprehensive Siting Process for Transmission Facilities?

Some states have a process for siting and/or coordinating various reviews and approvals for constructing a transmission facility. These comprehensive siting processes may consider environmental, ecological, scenic, recreational, and historic values of the state. Typically, the state public utility authority (e.g., public utility commission) or a energy, power, or siting board consisting of members from several interested state agencies is charged with conducting these comprehensive siting reviews. Additionally, the developer must comply with any applicable local siting or zoning ordinances.


Alaska

Alaska does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. See 8.23 to 8.24.

California

California does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity or a Permit to Construct from the California Public Utilities Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.

Colorado

Colorado does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24. A developer may also need additional local siting approvals. See 8.27 to 8.28.

Illinois

Illinois does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Illinois Commerce Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.

Indiana

Indiana does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain authority to operate as a public utility from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.

Iowa

In Iowa, a developer must obtain an Electric Transmission Line Franchise from the Iowa Utilities Board in order to construct transmission lines capable of carrying a voltage of 69kV or greater across public or private lands in the state. For more information, see:

Electric Transmission Line Franchise:
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Minnesota

In Minnesota, a developer must obtain a Route Permit from the Minnesota Public Utility Commission to construct and operate a high-voltage transmission line. Minn. Stat. §216E.03(2). A high-voltage transmission line is a transmission line and associated facilities capable of operating at 100 kilovolts or more. Minn. Stat. §216E.01(4); Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.1000. For more information, see:

Transmission Siting Route Permit:
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Mississippi

Mississippi does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Mississippi Public Service Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.

Missouri

Missouri does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the Missouri Public Service Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.


New York

New York does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the New York State Public Service Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.

North Dakota

In North Dakota, a developer must obtain a Certificate of Site or Corridor Compatibility from the North Dakota Public Service Commission in order to construct or operate an electric transmission line that carries voltages in excess of 115kVs and extends one or more miles in length. For more information, see:

Transmission Certificate of Site Compatibility:
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Ohio

In Ohio, a developer must obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate) from the Ohio Power Siting Board (Board) for the construction of a “major utility facility,” including electric transmission lines and associated facilities with a design capacity of 125 kV or more. O.R.C. § 4906.01; O.R.C. § 4906.04; O.R.C. § 4906.98(A). The Board has the authority to regulate transmission facilities pursuant to Ohio – Ohio Rev. Code §§ 4906.01 et seq., Power Siting. For more information, see:


Transmission Siting Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need:
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Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, a developer may need to obtain an Authorization to Locate and Construct a transmission line from the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission before beginning construction. For more information, see:

Authorization to Locate and Construct:
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Vermont

Vermont does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board. See 8.23 to 8.24.


Washington

Washington does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities.


Wisconsin

Wisconsin does not currently have a comprehensive siting process for transmission facilities. A developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Authority or a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. See 8.23 to 8.24.

8.21 to 8.22 – Does the State Have a Role in the Interconnection Process for Transmission Facilities?

Some states may require the developer to obtain permission before connecting their generation facility to the grid. This process is called interconnection, which differs from state level transmission siting processes. When permission is required, the process varies from state to state, as does the permitting authority.

Alaska

Alaska does not currently have a state specific interconnection process for generating facilities to connect to the grid.

California

In California, an interconnection customer (IC) who wants to connect a generating facility to the California ISO grid must apply and meet the requirements set out by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO). For more information, see:

CAISO Interconnection Request Process:
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Colorado

Colorado does not currently have a state specific interconnection process for generating facilities to connect to the grid.

Mississippi

Mississippi does not currently have a state specific interconnection process for generating facilities to connect to the grid.

New York

In New York, a developer must file an Interconnection Request with the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) to connect a new generating facility, or merchant transmission facility, to the New York State (NYS) Transmission System. A developer may also need to file an Interconnection Request with NYISO for material modifications to an existing large facility or modifications to an existing Interconnection Request. NYISO Transmission Expansion and Interconnection Manual, at § 3.1; NYISO Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) §§ 3.9, 4.5.8, 3.11, 4.5.9. For more information, see:

NYISO Interconnection Request Process:
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Ohio

Ohio does not currently have a state specific interconnection process for generating facilities to connect to the grid.

Vermont

Vermont does not currently have a state specific interconnection process for generating facilities to connect to the grid.

Washington

Washington does not currently have a state specific interconnection process for generating facilities to connect to the grid.

8.23 to 8.24 – Does the Facility Require Approval from a State Utility Regulatory Authority?

Depending on the requirements of the particular state, the developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Good (CPG), a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), or other approval from a state utility regulatory authority such as a public utilities commission for transmission line extension projects outside of the FERC license boundary. In some cases, the CPCN process for transmission may be combined with the CPCN process for the generation facility. Whether the transmission facility will require a CPCN differs by state, possible requirements include:

  • Whether the transmission facility is within the a specific kilovolt (kV) threshold requiring regulation; or
  • Whether the developer is regulated by the state utility regulatory authority (e.g., the developer falls under the definition of a “public utility” within the relevant state statute).


Alaska

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has jurisdiction over the primary transmission lines for most hydroelectric projects. However, a developer may need to obtain a CPCN from the Regulatory Commission of Alaska for transmission line extension projects located outside of a FERC license boundary. For more information, see:


Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity:
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California

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is the primary transmission siting agency in California. The CPUC also works with other agencies such as the California Energy Commission (CEC) and local city or counties during the siting process. In determining whether to allow the development of a proposed transmission project the CPUC takes into consideration factors such as the size of the proposed project, any environmental impacts the project might cause, and the state’s need for the project. The CPUC requires different permits depending on the type and size of the proposed project.


The CPUC defines a transmission line facility as a facility with an operation voltage of 200 kV or more. A developer is required to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) before construction of a transmission line facility. The CPUC defines a transmission project with an operating voltage between 50 kV and 200 kV as a power line facility or a substation. A developer is required to obtain a Permit to Construct before beginning development of a power line facility or a substation.


In most cases, an electric public utility must obtain a CPCN or a Permit to Construct from CPUC before constructing new transmission lines. Section XIV(b) of General Order 131-D clarifies that regulation of transmission line siting by local authorities is preempted by CPUC. As a result, there are only a few instances where siting approval must be obtained before constructing new transmission lines.

For more information, see:

CPUC Process for Transmission Facilities:
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Colorado

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) requires developers, which fall under the definition of “public utility” and “cooperative electrical associations” which choose not to be regulated as public utilities (CEAs), to apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for new construction and extension of transmission facilities in the state. 4 CCR 723-3-3206, Construction or Extension of Transmission Facilities. A “public utility” includes “every common carrier, pipeline corporation…electrical corporation,… person, or municipality operating for the purpose of supplying the public for domestic, mechanical, or public uses and every corporation, or person declared by law to be affected with a public interest” providing electric, steam, or associated services in the state of Colorado. CRS 40-1-103; 4 CCR 723-3-3001(oo). For more information, see:

Certificate Public Convenience and Necessity:
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Illinois

In Illinois, a developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity “…prior to any [public] utility construction…” from the Illinois Commerce Commission (“ICC”). Illinois Public Utilities Act (220 I.L.C.S §§ 5 et seq.). The ICC has the authority to regulate all public utilities pursuant to Illinois Public Utilities Act (220 I.L.C.S §§ 5 et seq.), and Illinois Regulations – 83 I.A.C. §§ 100 et seq., Public Utilities.


A “public utility” is defined to include “…every corporation, limited liability company, association, … partnership, or individual…that owns, controls, operates or manages, within in the State, directly or indirectly, for public use, any plant, equipment or property used or to be used for or in connection with, or owns or controls…the production, storage, transmission, sale, delivery or furnishing of heat, cold, power, electricity, water, or light…” 220 I.L.C.S § 5/3-105(a)-(a)(1). For more information, see:

Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity:
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Indiana

In Indiana, a developer, who does not operate as a public utility in the state of Indiana, but plans to build transmission lines in the state capable of carrying voltages of 100kV or greater, must obtain authority to operate as a public utility from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Afterwards, the developer needs to obtain siting permissions from local authorities where the proposed transmission line will be located. For more information, see:

Authority to Operate as a Public Utility:
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Minnesota

In Minnesota, a developer must obtain a Certificate of Need from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to site or construct a large energy facility. Minn. Stat. §216B.243(2). A “large energy facility” includes “…any high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more and greater than ten (10) miles of its length in Minnesota or that crosses a state line…” or “…any high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more and greater than 1,500 feet in length…” Minn. Stat. §216B.2421(2)(2)-(3). For more information, see:

Certificate of Need:
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Mississippi

In Mississippi, a hydropower developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Mississippi Public Service Commission for the construction of transmission lines associated with a hydropower facility. For more information, see:

Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity:
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Missouri

In Missouri, an electrical corporation must obtain a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCN) from the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) prior to constructing an electric plant. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 393.170.1. The MPSC has authority to regulate all electrical corporation construction and operation of electrical facilities pursuant to Missouri – Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 393.010 et seq., Gas, Electric, Water, Heating and Sewer Companies and Missouri Regulations – 4 C.S.R. §§ 240 et seq., Public Service Commission, and to grant a CCN after determining it is “. . . necessary or convenient for the public service.” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 393.170.3. For more information, see:

Certificate of Convenience and Necessity:
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New York

In New York, a hydropower developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (CECPN) from the New York State Public Service Commission for the construction of transmission lines outside of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license boundary or for transmission lines associated with a qualifying conduit hydropower facility with a nameplate capacity of 5MW or less. N.Y. Pub. Serv. Law §121(1), Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need; N.Y. Pub. Serv. Law §120(2), Definitions. For more information, see:

Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need:
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North Dakota

In North Dakota, a developer must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the North Dakota Public Service Commission in order to construct an electric transmission line that carries voltages of 115kVs or greater and extends more than a mile in length that will connect to an existing transmission line owned by an electric public utility. For more information, see:

Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity:
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Ohio

Ohio does not currently require hydropower developers to obtain a certificate or approval from the Ohio Public Utilities Commission for transmission facilities.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, a developer must obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience from the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission before operating as a public utility. A public utility is defined, in part, as any “person or corporation… owning or operating... equipment or facilities for producing, generating, transmitting, distributing or furnishing natural or artificial gas, electricity, or steam for the production of light, heat, or power to the public.” 66 PA. Const. Stat §102 (1978) . For more information, see:

State Land Right-of-Way:
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Vermont

In Vermont, a developer may need to obtain a Certificate of Public Good (CPG), from the Public Service Board (Board) for a transmission line extension project, or a group net-metered hydroelectric power system interconnection. For more information, see:

Certificate of Public Good:
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Washington

Washington does not currently require hydropower developers to obtain a certificate or approval for transmission facilities.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, a developer may need to obtain either a Certificate of Authority (“CA”) or a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (“CPCN”) from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (“WPSC”) to construct a new electric transmission facility. WPSC – Application Filing Requirements for Transmission Line Projects, at p.1. The WPSC has two separate review processes for transmission projects in Wisconsin. The process required depends on the voltage, length, and cost of the project. For more information, see:

Public Service Commission Certificates for Transmission Facilities:
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8.25 to 8.26 – Does the Project Require Any Additional State Approvals?

In addition to comprehensive siting processes or certificates from a public utility commission, state governments may require additional approvals relating to a transmission facility.


North Dakota

In North Dakota, a developer must obtain a Route Permit (also referred to as a Transmission Facility Permit) from the North Dakota Public Service Commission in order to construct or operate an electric transmission line that carries voltages in excess of 115kVs and extends one or more miles in length. For more information, see:

Route Permit:
8-ND-d


8.27 to 8.28 – Does the Facility Require Local Approvals?

County and municipal governments play a large role in the transmission facility approval process. In all states, unless superseded by state authority, the developer will be required to comply with local zoning regulations. However, some states grant a larger approval role to local governments. For example, Colorado’s “1041 Regulations” authorize cities and counties to regulate by permit, activities within certain areas of state interest. A developer should consult all counties and municipalities in which the transmission facility will be located to assure compliance with all local regulations.

Colorado

Colorado’s transmission permitting process reflects both state and local government involvement.

The process is highly decentralized, taking place primarily at the local government level. For the purposes of bulk transmission facility siting, local government is defined as, “a county, home rule or statutory city, town, territorial charter city, or city and county.” C.R.S. 24-65.1-102(2). State involvement in the transmission siting process is more limited. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) governs the process for appeals arising from local government permitting matters.

Transmission Siting Process:
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8.29 – Continue with Project



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