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Washington Bulk Transmission Transmission & Interconnection(8-WA)

The electrical grid in Washington 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 Washington. 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 Washington 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.

Avista, Pacificorp, Puget Sound Energy, Tacoma Public Utilities, Bonneville Power Administration, Columbia Grid, Northern Tier Transmission Group, and Seattle City Light provide transmission in the state of Washington.

Washington Energy Policy

The Washington State Energy Office (WEO) provides energy policy support, analysis, and information for the Governor, Legislature, Department of Commerce and other energy decision makers. The WEO provides technical and policy support to Washington members of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, other state agencies and state congressional officials on federal and regional energy policies and legislation. WEO provides financial and technical assistance through funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The State Energy Program emphasizes the WEO role as the decision maker and administrator for the program activities within the state.

In Washington, transmission developers may choose to opt-in to the state process or carry out siting and permitting at the local level. Developers typically choose to carry out siting and permitting at the local level. The EFSEC process was developed for siting energy facilities such as nuclear power plants, but can be applied to transmission lines.

The state siting process for Washington is governed by the EFSEC, a council created by the Energy Facility Site Location Act (EFSLA) to centralize energy facility siting and permitting.[1] Transmission lines 115 kilovolts (kV) or greater can be sited and permitted under EFSLA. Proponents have the choice to opt-in to permitting with the EFSEC or conduct permitting on the local level.

If the proponent opts-in, the EFSEC will conduct and grant all other applicable state permits, including air, water, hazardous waste, socio-economic, and compliance with local land use plans and zoning, eliminating the need to seek permits from other state agencies. Proposed transmission lines located within a NIETC [2] are subject to the EFSEC process. NIETCs are designated geographic areas where transmission congestion or constraints adversely affect consumers. These corridors are designated under Section 206(a) of the Federal Power Act (created by section 1221(a) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005) which directs U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to identify transmission congestion and constraint problems. [3] There are not currently any NIETCs in Washington.

The EFSEC is made up of a chairman appointed by the Governor and five representatives from state agencies: department of ecology, department of fish and wildlife, department of commerce, utilities and transportation commission, and department of natural resources. [1] The council can also include, on a project-by-project basis, members from other state agencies: department of agriculture, department of health, military department, and department of transportation. Local jurisdictions in which a potential project may be located shall appoint a voting member to the EFSEC, though voting is limited to issues affecting said jurisdiction. The EFSEC is required to coordinate, consult, and honor local interests while preparing and reviewing the application.[4] In order to invoke the power of preemption, the EFSEC must include conditional statements that the Site Certification Agreement will include and consider local interests.[5]

The Site Certification process for transmission facilities includes the following steps: pre-application process; application submittal; application review; initial public hearings; environmental impact statement; adjudicative proceedings and permits review; and EFSEC recommendation to the Governor. Some of these steps can take place at the same time.[6]

The council will evaluate project applications for environmental and socioeconomic impacts before recommending action to the Governor.[5] The formal Site Certification Agreement must be signed by the Governor to be approved, and may include conditions that the proponent must meet during construction and operation of the facility. Upon an EFSEC recommendation for a Site Certificate Agreement, the Governor of Washington may sign and issue the Site Certification Agreement, remand to the Council for further evaluation, or reject wholly.[5] An approved Site Certification Agreement does not grant the right of eminent domain.

The Site Certification process is expected to take between 12 and 14 months, but may take longer.[6] The applicant may request the Expedited Process,[7] but would only be eligible if the project will not have any significant environmental or socioeconomic impacts. This process would cut down on the review and recommendation stages of this process by an expected 6 months.

Developers may be motivated to opt-in to the EFSEC process if they perceive hardships in completing siting and permitting at the local level. The developer is responsible for all costs associated with the review and processing of the application for Site Certification, and the fees and cost may vary by project.

Local Process
Most often in the state of Washington transmission line siting and permitting is conducted at the local level. Transmission line siting should comply with local comprehensive plans and development regulations that vary by jurisdiction.

Local governments have authority to develop and implement comprehensive plans and development regulation processes to regulate local land use. [8][9] The Washington Growth Management Act [10][11] states that the local governments should include regulations on transmission line facilities in these comprehensive plans and development regulation processes, making each local government’s process different. As discussed above, the EFSLA has preemptive authority over local governments, however, local governments will still have input into the final decision should a developer choose to opt-in to the state process.

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

Washington Federal

State or Preemptive Authority: The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has preemptive authority over all other state and local agencies R.C.W. 80-50.
Transmission Siting Agency: Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, Local governments
Transmission Siting Process: A developer may need to obtain a Site Certification Agreement from the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council to construct or modify a energy facility. RCW 80.50.060(1)-(3), 463 WAC-61-030.
Transmission Siting Threshold: Projects may be permitted under the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council process for transmission projects that are 115kV and higher voltage in which the developer opts-in to the state process, or a transmission line is located within a National Interstate Electric Transmission Corridors.R.C.W. 80-50.
Siting Act: Energy Facility Site Location Act R.C.W. 80-50.
Regulated Entity Definition: "An ""energy facility"" includes energy plants and transmission facilities. RCW 80.50.020.
Public Utility Regulatory Authority Certification Transmission Threshold: Transmission developers may choose to opt-in to the state process or carry out siting and permitting at the local level. Proposed Transmission Lines within National Interstate Electric Transmission Corridors are subject to Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council process and approval. A Site Certification Agreement is required.
Permit Processing Timeframe: There is no statutorily defined time frame for approval of certifications, but an applicant may apply for and be granted an expedited processing of their application if their project poses no significant or mitigated environmental harm. Wash. Rev. Code § 80.50.075.

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List of Reference Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 R.C.W. 80-50-030 (2010).
  2. R.C.W. 80-50-045 (2006).
  3. National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor
  4. R.C.W. 80-50-090 (2006). (2)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 R.C.W. 80-50-100 (2011). (1)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. EFSEC Generalized Siting Process Flowchart. [Chart]. Olympia, Washington. Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council. 2013. Available from: http://en.openei.org/wiki/File:EFSEC_Process.pdf.
  7. W.A.C. 463-43 (2009).
  8. R.C.W. 35-63-090 (1985).
  9. R.C.W. 35-63-110 (1965).
  10. R.C.W. 36-70A-070 (2005). 4
  11. R.C.W. 36-70A-035 (1999).