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A typical utility-scale geothermal project will raise numerous environmental issues that require permitting and/or regulatory approval from federal and state agencies. The environmental law in the United States is governed by federal law that is administered by both federal and state agencies, as well as state environmental laws that either complement federal law or go above and beyond it.
Congress signed the [[National Environmental Policy Act]] (NEPA) into law on January 1, 1970. The Act establishes national environmental policy and goals for the protection, maintenance, and enhancement of the environment and provides a process for implementing these goals within the federal agencies.
A developer will be required to go through the NEPA process if the project involves a "major federal action." In general, a project triggers NEPA if the project is on federal land, the federal government owns the mineral estate, the project receives federal funding or support, or if a federal permit is required.
The level and scope of the NEPA review will vary depending on the nature of the project and the level of involvement of the federal government. Some actions and projects will receive a categorical exclusion while others may require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A ‘’lead agency” handles NEPA review. A 'lead agency" is the federal agency responsible for writing the main NEPA document(s) and coordinating with any other federal, state, or tribal agencies.
For most projects, the lead agency will be the [[Bureau of Land Management]] (BLM), the [[United States Forest Service]] (USFS), the [[Department of Energy]] (DOE), or the [[United States Department of Defense]] (DOD).
On top of federal environmental regulation, the developer is required to comply with state environmental laws. Many states have adopted their own environmental laws and regulations.
Overview of the permit or section being discussed.
==9.1 - Does the Project Include a Major Federal Action?==
For [[NEPA]] to be triggered there must be a "major federal action" (action).
Major federal actions tend to fall within one of the following categories:
# Adoption of official policy, such as rules, regulations, and interpretations adopted pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.; treaties and international conventions or agreements; formal documents establishing an agency's policies which will result in or substantially alter agency programs.
# Adoption of formal plans, such as official documents prepared or approved by federal agencies which guide or prescribe alternative uses of Federal resources, upon which future agency actions will be based.
# Adoption of programs, such as a group of concerted actions to implement a specific policy or plan; systematic and connected agency decisions allocating agency resources to implement a specific statutory program or executive directive.
# Approval of specific projects, such as construction or management activities located in a defined geographic area. Projects include actions approved by permit or other regulatory decision as well as federal and federally assisted activities.
Major federal actions include new and continuing activities, including projects and programs entirely or partly financed, assisted, conducted, regulated, or approved by federal agencies; new or revised agency rules, regulations, plans, policies, or procedures; and legislative proposals (NEPA § [[Title 40 CFR 1506 Other Requirements of NEPA|1506.8]], [[Title 40 CFR 1508 Terminology and Index|1508.17]]). Actions do not include funding assistance solely in the form of general revenue sharing funds, distributed under the State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act of 1972, 31 U.S.C. 1221 et seq., with no federal agency control over the subsequent use of such funds. Actions do not include bringing judicial or administrative civil or criminal enforcement actions.
In general NEPA will be triggered if the project is on federal land, the federal government owns the mineral estate, the project receives federal funding or support, or if a federal permit is required.
See [[Title 40 CFR 1508 Terminology and Index|40 CFR 1508.18 Major Federal Action]].
==9.2 to 9.3 – Is the BLM or USFS the Lead Agency for the Major Federal Action?==
Under NEPA a “lead agency” is the agency preparing NEPA documentation or is the agency that has taken primary responsibility for coordinating the NEPA process.
A “cooperating agency” means any federal, state, local, or tribal agency other than a lead agency which has jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental impact involved in a proposal (or a reasonable alternative) for legislation or other major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.
If the [[Bureau of Land Management]] (BLM) or the [[United States Forest Service]] (USFS) is the lead agency then the BLM will coordinate the NEPA process.
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-fed">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-FD-a|Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service-NEPA Process: <br>9-FD-a]]</span>
==9.4 to 9.5 – Is the Department of Energy the Lead Agency for the Major Federal Action?==
If the [[Department of Energy]] (DOE) is the lead agency then it will coordinate the NEPA process.
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-fed">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-FD-e|Department of Energy NEPA Process: <br>9-FD-e]]</span>
==9.6 to 9.7 - Is the Department of Defense the Lead Agency for the Major Federal Action?==
If the [[United States Department of Defense|Department of Defense]] (DOD) is the lead agency then it will coordinate the NEPA process.
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-fed">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-FD-f|Department of Defense NEPA Process: <br>9-FD-f]]</span>
==9.8 – If Necessary Contact Other Federal Agencies for NEPA Process==
If another federal agency is the lead agency for the major federal action then the developer will be required to contact that agency for its NEPA policies and procedures.
==9.10 to 9.11 - Has an On-Site Evaluation Been Conducted?==
The on-site evaluation process is intended to walk the developer through all of the required "environmental" considerations of a typical environmental review under NEPA.
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-overview">[[RAPID/Roadmap/10|On-Site Evaluation Process: 10]]</span>
==9.12 - State Environmental Process==
In addition to federal environmental laws most states have passed state environmental laws and regulations. Some states have an all-encompassing environmental review process such as California's CEQA process, while other states consider only certain issues.
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="AK">
The state of Alaska has not adopted a state environmental review process.
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="CA">
In California, the [[California Environmental Quality Act]] (CEQA) is the state legislation governing environmental protection issues in California. For more information, see:
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-state">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-CA-a|State Environmental Review Overview: <br>9-CA-a]]</span>
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="HI">
In Hawaii, the Hawaii State environmental review process under [[H.R.S. 343 - Environmental Impact Statements|Hawaii Revised Statutes 343]] and [[H.A.R. 11-200 - Environmental Impact Statement Rules|Hawaii Administrative Rules 11, Chapter 200]] is required for any project proposing to use state or county lands or funds, or lands within conservation districts, shoreline areas, historic sites, in the Waikiki Special District or proposing a wastewater system, waste-to-energy facility, landfill, oil refinery, or power generating facility according to [[H.R.S. 343 - Environmental Impact Statements|Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 343-5]]. For more information, see:
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-state">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-HI-a|State Environmental Review Overview: <br>9-HI-a]]</span>
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="MT">
In Montana, [[M.C.A. 75-1-101 - Montana Environmental Policy Act|the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA)]] is intended to protect the state from the cumulative affect of development on nature and human health, much in the same way the [[National Environmental Policy Act]] regulates federal development projects. For more information, see:
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-state">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-MT-a|State Environmental Review: <br>9-MT-a]]</span>
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="NV">
In Nevada, siting and environmental review of “utility facilities” in Nevada is governed by the Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA). For more information, see:
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-state">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-NV-a|State Environmental Review: <br>9-NV-a]]</span>
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="UT">
In Utah, a developer may utilize an optional environmental process to coordinate permitting requirements through the [[Utah Department of Environmental Quality]].
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-state">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-UT-a|State Environmental Review: <br>9-UT-a]]</span>
<div class="state-block" data-abbr="WA">
In Washington, the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), [[Washington State Environmental Policy Act | chapter 43.21c RCW]], requires all governmental agencies to consider the environmental impacts of a proposal before making decisions. For more information, see:
<span class="btn btn-rapid btn-state">[[RAPID/Roadmap/9-WA-a|State Environmental Review Overview: <br>9-WA-a]]</span>
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[[National Environmental Policy Act]];[[Title 40 CFR 1508 Terminology and Index|40 CFR 1508.18 Major Federal Action]]
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Assemble a trigger using the fields below. Multiple triggers are treated as "OR" conditionals.
Surface ManagerSurface OwnerMineral ManagerMineral OwnerActivityEncroachmentEnvironmentalLocationLand Use PlanGeothermal LeaseHazardous WasteImpactsFacilityFundingManagedPlannedPower PlantTransmissionTransportation
DrillingExplorationGeophysicsLeasingPower Plant DevelopmentWell Abandonment
can be described as
CogenerationSmall Power ProductionIndependent Power ProductionWholesale CustomerFERC ExemptedFERC LicensedUnderground StorageAbove-Ground StorageTemporary Water RequirementPermanent Water RequirementDrinking Water Providing
ActiveNoApplicant Is Lessee
Capacity Exceeds 20 MWCapacity Under 20 MWCapacity Is 50 MWCapacity Exceeds 50 MWCapacity Under 100 MWPUC Certification
Historic PropertiesNative American Historic PropertyNative Hawaiian Historic PropertyNational Register Historic PropertyHistoric Property (Alteration)AirportMigratory BirdsBald Or Golden EagleMarine Mammals Or HabitatFederal Endangered SpeciesFarmland Or LivestockMilitary LandWaters Of The USNavigable WatersWild Or Scenic RiverWetlands By Dregging Or FillingGroundwater By DischargeStorm WaterWater Discharge To WellWater Discharge To LandWater Point Source DischargeWaste Water Associated With Only GeothermalReceived State 401 WQ CertHas Not Received 401 WQ CertAir QualityAir Quality From ConstructionAir Quality From OperationSolid Waste
Line Capacity Under 200 kVLine Capacity Exceeds 50 kVWithin NIETCCAISO GridExempt Per GO 131 D III B 1Not Exempt From CEQAPUC CertificationProject Under GO 131 D II B 2
Assessment CompletedImpact SignificantImpact Likely SignificantAnalysis Impacts AdverseAnalysis Impacts Not AdverseNo Best Interests FindingNo Categorical ExclusionNo Determination Of NEPA AdequacyPrior State AnalysisNo Prior State AnalysisProcess Not Complete For DrillingExtraordinary Circumstances
Interconnection AgreementPre-Application Process
State Highway ROW
Exceeds Max Length Or Load
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