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California State Plant Commissioning Process - Small Power Plant Exemption (7-CA-b)

Information current as of 2019
In California, any person (developer) may apply for a Small Power Plant Exemption (SPPE) from the California Energy Commission (CEC) if a proposed thermal power plant between 50MW and 100MW will not create any adverse impacts on the environment or to any energy resources during its construction or operation.

The SPPE is an exemption from the Application for Certification (AFC) power plant licensing process and is not a permit or license to build the power plant. The developer must obtain all necessary local, state, and federal permits in addition to meeting the requirements of the SPPE process. To qualify for the SPPE the proposed facility must not create any adverse impacts on the environment or energy resources during its construction or operation. The emphasis of the SPPE review is on the environmental impacts that the facility may create. The CEC acts as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lead agency for SPPE projects.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25541

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 45.

State Plant Commissioning Process - Small Power Plant Exemption

7-CA-b.1 - Pre-Filing Meetings (Optional)

The CEC encourages potential developers to set up a pre-filing meeting to discuss the SPPE process, identify information necessary for a complete application, and identify issues specific to the potential thermal power plant. The optional pre-filing meeting(s) may include workshops, site visits, public meetings, and a preliminary review of the applicant’s filing documents.

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 11.

7-CA-b.2 - Application for Small Power Plant Exemption (SPPE)

Developers building power plants between 50 MW and 100 MW with no adverse impacts may apply to the CEC for a SPPE. The CEC does not have specific data adequacy requirements for an SPPE application, but suggests making the application as thorough as possible to avoid information requests and delays in the SPPE process.

Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 25541

20 CCR § 1936

7-CA-b.3 to 7-CA-b.4 - Review Application Materials for Completeness

The CEC reviews the SPPE application for completeness and requests any additional information necessary for determining whether to grant an SPPE. The CEC must review the developer’s application within 30 days. The CEC also insures impact mitigation on environmental or energy resources.

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 12

7-CA-b.5 – Preform Information Hearing and Site Visit

The CEC conducts an information hearing with the developer in which the developer provides information on the project and related facilities as well as explains why the project is necessary. The CEC committee members and other public agencies also explain their roles and responsibilities in the power plant licensing process. The public is welcome to attend the information hearing and ask questions.

Usually scheduled on the same day as the information hearing, a site visit allows the developer to explain the project and give a tour of the project site. The public is welcome to attend and comment about the location. The CEC and developer may restrict public access if sensitive issues exist, such as the presence of rare or endangered species at the site.

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 17.

7-CA-b.6 - Preliminary Staff Assessment; Draft Initial Study; NOI to File a Negative Declaration

When a developer seeks a SPPE, the CEC staff conducts a preliminary assessment, prepares a Draft Initial Study that follows CEQA guidelines, and determines the significance of the project’s impact. The Initial Study also suggests the conditions necessary for a SPPE to assure no adverse impacts on the environment and energy resources. If the project will have no adverse impacts on the environment and energy resources, the CEC issues a Notice of Intent to File a Negative Declaration.

14 CCR § 15063

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 17.

7-CA-b.7 to 7-CA-b.8 - Post for Public Comment and Hold Workshop

The CEC staff posts the Preliminary Staff Assessment, Draft Initial Study, and Notice of Intent of File a Negative Declaration for public comment and holds a workshop.

7-CA-b.9 - Proposed Negative Declaration and Final Initial Study

CEC files a Final Initial Study determining the significance of the projects impact on the environment and energy resources.

If the CEC Committee finds no significant adverse impacts on the environment, the Committee prepares a Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration (PMND) and a Public Notice for a PMND. Once the PMND is prepared a 30-day comment period is established in which the public can comment on the PMND. If there are any significant revisions after the public comment period, the negative declaration may have to be re-published and the Initial Study process will have to be repeated.

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 48

7-CA-b.10 – Initiate Evidentiary Hearings (All Parties and the Public may Participate)

The CEC staff, developer, and the public participate in formal hearings held by the CEC committee to take written, oral, and documentary testimony from interested parties.

Practice and Procedure Guide, page 41.

7-CA-b.11 - Proposed Decision on SPPE

At the conclusion of the evidentiary hearings, the presiding member of the CEC committee will prepare a Proposed Decision determining whether to grant the SPPE. The decision will be based on the record of evidence presented during the hearing.

7-CA-b.12 – Initiate Hearing to Approve or Deny (Open to All Parties)

The final decision to approve or disapprove of a SPPE is usually made at a regularly scheduled CEC business meeting before the five Energy Commissioners.

7-CA-b.13 - Comments on Final Initial Study and Proposed Decision

The presiding member will post a notice in a local newspaper near the proposed site location stating the proposed decision is available for comment. Members of the public may then file written comments on the proposed decision for 15 days.

7-CA-b.14 to 7-CA-b.17 - Does the CEC Approve SPPE?

If the CEC approves the SPPE, the developer may build the thermal power plant without completing the AFC. If the CEC denies the SPPE the developer may still initiate the AFC process. If the developer decides not to initiate the AFC process after the CEC has denied the SPPE then the developer may not proceed with the proposed project.

State Plant Commissioning Process, Application for Certification:

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