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Utah Bulk Transmission Siting & Regulation(8-UT)

The electrical grid in Utah is part of the Western Interconnection power grid and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). WECC includes the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico, and all or portions of the 14 Western states between. The WECC is the Regional Entity responsible for coordinating and promoting Bulk Electric System reliability in the Western Interconnection, including in Utah. In addition, WECC provides an environment for coordinating the operating and planning activities of its members as set forth in the WECC Bylaws.

In addition, some transmission owners in Utah are part of the Northern Tier Transmission Group (NTTG). The NTTG is a group of transmission providers and customers that are actively involved in the sale and purchase of transmission capacity of the power grid that delivers electricity to customers in the Northwest and Mountain States. Transmission owners serving this territory work in conjunction with state governments, customers, and other stakeholders to improve the operations of and chart the future for the grid that links all of these service territories.

Intermountain Power Agency, Western Area Power Administration, Bonneville Power Association, Western Area Power Administration, Columbia Grid, Northern Tier Transmission Group, and Rocky Mountain Power provide transmission in the state of Utah.

Utah Energy Policy

The governor of Utah developed a program for energy planning and the Utah Energy Initiative 10-year strategic energy plan. The energy plan provides recommendations to support transmission development.

Utah does not have a state-administered siting act for high-voltage transmission lines. The role of the state in permitting high-voltage transmission lines is limited to 1) issuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), typically prior to construction, and 2) reviewing and resolving disputes issues regarding the construction and installation of public utility facilities.

A proponent wishing to construct a transmission line within the state must obtain a CPCN from the Utah Public Service Commission (UPSC) demonstrating that present or future public convenience and necessity does or will require the construction of the proposed project.U.C.A. 54-4-25 As part of the submittal process, an applicant must provide:

  • Evidence showing that they have received or are in the process of obtaining the required consent, franchise, or permit from the proper county, city, municipal, or other public authority.U.C.A. 54-4-25
  • A statement that any proposed transmission line will not conflict with or adversely affect the operations of any existing certificated fixed public utility which supplies the same product or service to the public and that it will not constitute an extension into the territory certificated to the existing fixed public utility.U.C.A. 54-4-25

Once an application has been submitted to the UPSC, they will arrange for a public hearing through its normal docketing procedures.R746-100-10(A)

The state of Utah has backstop authority to site high voltage transmission lines in cases where a utility or local municipality seeks assistance of the Utah Facility Review Board (Board) for review and resolution of issues related to the siting and construction of facilities by public utilities, including transmission linesU.C.A. 54-14 The Board was created within the Department of Commerce to resolve disputes between local governments and public utilities regarding the siting and construction of facilities, including high-voltage transmission lines.U.C.A. 54-14 A local government or public utility may seek review by the Board if:

  • The local government has imposed requirements on construction that result in excess costs and has not entered into an agreement with the public utility to pay for the excess cost;
  • There is a dispute regarding the estimated excess or standard cost of a facility;
  • There is a dispute regarding when construction of a facility should occur in order to avoid significant risk of impairment of safe, reliable, and adequate service to customers;
  • There is a dispute as to whether the public utility has sought a permit, authorization, approval, exception or waiver with respect to a facility sufficiently in advance of the date construction should commence, based upon reasonably foreseeable conditions, to allow the local government reasonable time to pay for any estimated excess cost;
  • There is a dispute regarding the geographic boundaries of a proposed corridor as identified in the notice of intent submitted by a public utility to a local government, provided the action is filed by the local government before the public utility files for an application for a land use permit;
  • There is a dispute regarding a modification proposed by a local government to a utility’s proposed corridor as identified in their notice of intent;
  • A local government has required construction of a facility in a manner that will not permit the utility to provide service to its customers in a safe, reliable, adequate, or efficient manner;
  • A local government has prohibited construction of a facility which is needed to provide safe, reliable, adequate, and efficient service to the customers of the public utility;
  • A local government has not made a final decision on the public utility's application for a permit, authorization, approval, exception, or waiver with respect to a facility within 60 days of the date the public utility applied to the local government;
  • A facility is located or proposed to be located in more than one local government jurisdiction and the decisions of the local governments regarding the facility are inconsistent;
  • A facility is proposed to be located within a local government jurisdiction to serve customers exclusively outside the jurisdiction of the local government and there is a dispute regarding the apportionment of the actual excess cost of the facility between the local government and the public utility.U.C.A. 54-14

The Board will hold an initial hearing within 40 days of when the review is initiated. During the initial hearing the Board will determine how the review will take place.U.C.A. 54-14 The Board will issue a written decision within 45 days following the initial hearing.U.C.A. 54-14 The written decision will include whether the facility should be constructed and if so, it will indicate whether requirements or conditions imposed by the local government may not be imposed because they impair the ability of the public utility to provide safe, reliable, and adequate service to its customer. U.C.A. 54-14 The decision will also resolve any of the disputes outlined above. The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to review any decision of the Board in a formal adjudicative proceeding.U.C.A. 54-14

Local Process
Under state law, Utah counties and municipalities are given authority to regulate the use of land within their jurisdiction.U.C.A. 17-27a State Statutes give local governments (counties/municipalities) the authorization to:

"…enact all ordinances, resolutions, and rules and may enter into other forms of land use controls and development agreements that they consider necessary or appropriate for the use and development of land within the municipality or county, including ordinances, resolutions, rules, restrictive covenants, easements, and development agreements governing uses, including public facilities, unless expressly prohibited by law.” U.C.A. 10-9a

An applicant proposing a utility project is entitled to approval of a land use application if the application conforms to the requirements of the local governments zoning and land use ordinances.U.C.A. 10-9a Local land use authorities retain the right to deny a land use application if it is found that the public interest would be jeopardized by approving the application; or if the municipality has formally initiated proceedings to amend its ordinance in such a way as to prohibit approval of the application as submitted.U.C.A. 10-9a A local government’s land use ordinance may include conditional uses and provisions for conditional uses that require compliance with standards set forth in an applicable ordinance.U.C.A. 10-9a U.C.A. 17-27a A conditional use may be approved if reasonable conditions are proposed, or can be imposed, to mitigate the reasonably anticipated detrimental effects of the proposed use, If detrimental effects cannot be substantially mitigated or compliance achieved through reasonable conditions, then the permit may be denied.U.C.A. 10-9aU.C.A. 17-27a The conditional use permit process varies by local government.

Siting of High Voltage Power Line Act

For proponents wishing to construct a high voltage power line that is subject to the Act, they must submit a notice of intent and conduct public workshops prior to applying for local government land use permits.U.C.A. 54-18 High voltage power lines subject to the Act include lines that are 230kV or greater and an upgraded lines (which are existing transmission lines whose voltage is increased to 230kV or more).U.C.A. 54-18

Notice of Intent to File (NOI): A proponent is required to notify the local land use authority of its intent to file a land use application at least 90 days before the application is submitted.U.C.A. 54-18 The NOI shall include the following information:

  • The name and mailing address of the public utility, including the name of a contact person; and an address and telephone number for the contact person;
  • The purpose and need for the high voltage power line;
  • A map showing the target study area;
  • A description of environmentally sensitive areas in the target study area;
  • Timing of construction;
  • A list of affected entities.U.C.A. 54-18

Within one week of filing the NOI with a land use authority, the proponent shall create a website in order to dispense information that pertains to the proposed high voltage power line.U.C.A. 54-18 The proponent shall also publish a public notice in a newspaper of general circulation at least once per week for two weeks in each county where the target study area is located announcing that the proponent has filed a NOI with an affected entity.U.C.A. 54-18

In addition, at least 60 days prior to filing a conditional use permit application with a local land use authority, a proponent shall notify affected entities, the land use authority of an affected entity, and affected landowners.U.C.A. 54-18 This notice shall include the following information:

  • The name and mailing address of the public utility; name of a contact person including address and phone number;
  • A description of the proposed corridor including location maps of the target study area and the width of the proposed route needed for the high voltage power line;
  • A description of the proposed project website;
  • Explanation of the land use application process; how an affected landowner may participate in a land use authority’s land use application process; and the rights of an affected landowner under Title 78B, Chapter 6, Part 5, Eminent Domain.U.C.A. 54-18

Public Workshops: After the proponent has filed an NOI and notices to affected entities and before it files a land use application, the proponent shall conduct an informal public workshop at locations along the proposed corridor to provide information about the proposed project and the process for obtaining a land use permit.U.C.A. 54-18 Notices of the public workshops shall be given at least 14 days in advance and shall be distributed in a newspaper of general circulation and announced on radio station in the target study area, and provided to affected entities.U.C.A. 54-18

Within 60 days of submitting a land use application, the local land use authority shall grant or deny a public utility’s land use permit.U.C.A. 54-18

More Information

Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.

Permitting at a Glance

Utah Federal

Transmission Siting: Public utilities may need a Land Use Permit. UT. Code. Ann. §54-18-201.
Transmission Siting Agency: Local land use authority, Utah Public Service Commission Utility Facility Review Board
Transmission Siting Threshold: To construct or operate of a high voltage transmission line of 230 kV or more, or an upgraded high voltage transmission line. UT. Code. Ann. §§54-18-102 – 54-18-201.
Transmission Siting Act: Utah UC 54-18, Siting of High Voltage Power Line Act
Preemptive Authority: The Utah Public Service Commission has regulatory and preemptive authority over transmission line construction in the state.
Regulated Entity Definition: A public utility in the context of a Land Use Permit means “every electric corporation, distribution electrical cooperative, wholesale electrical cooperative…and independent energy producer…where the service is performed for, or the commodity delivered to, the public generally…”A electric corporation in the context of a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity means “every corporation, cooperative association, and person, their lessees, trustees, and receivers, owning, controlling, operating, or managing any electric plant, or in any way furnishing electric power for public service or to its consumers.” UT. Code. Ann. §54-2-1.
Public Utility Certificate Threshold: Electric corporations may need a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity from the Utah Public Service Commission to construct or operate a line, route, plant, or system or an extension of a line, route, plant or system. UT. Code. Ann. §54-4-25 (1).
Processing Timeframe: Certificate of Convenience and Necessity: 30-45 days