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Washington Transmission Site Certification Agreement (8-WA-a)

Information current as of 2020
In Washington, a developer may need a Site Certification Agreement from the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (“EFSEC”) to construct or modify a energy facility. RCW 80.50.060(1)-(3); 463 WAC-61-030. An energy facility includes energy plants and transmission facilities. RCW 80.50.020. EFSEC must evaluate a proposed project, before approval, to ensure that all environmental and socioeconomic impacts are considered. EFSEC regulates energy and transmission facilities pursuant to RCW - 80.50 - Energy Facilities-Site Locations and WAC - 463-61 - Electrical Transmission Facilities. Note: RCW 80.50.110; 120 allow EFSEC to preempt all state and local laws, ordinances, and restrictions that may prohibit project development.

Transmission Site Certification Agreement Process

8-WA-a.1 to 8-WA-a.2 – Does the Proposed Project Require a Site Certification Agreement?

A developer may need to obtain a Site Certification Agreement from the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (“EFSEC”) to construct, reconstruct, or modify a energy facility. RCW 80.50.060(1)-(3); 463 WAC-61-030. An energy facility includes energy plants and transmission facilities. RCW 80.50.020. Modify means to “…significantly change to an electrical transmission facility and does not include:

  • Minor improvements such as the replacement of existing transmission line facilities or supporting structures with equivalent facilities or structures;
  • The relocation of existing electrical transmission line facilities; or
  • The placing of new or additional conductors, supporting structures, insulators, or their accessories on or replacement of supporting structures already built.” RCW 80.50.060(3)(a)(i)-(iii).

The transmission facilities outlined below may need to obtain a Site Certification Agreement from ESFEC:

Thermal Electrical Generation

  • Any stationary thermal (non-hydro) power plants with electrical generating capacity of 350 megawatts (MW) or more including associated facilities such as transmission lines in excess of 115 kilovolts (kV); and
  • Floating thermal power plants of 100 MW or more.

WAC 463-61-030; RCW 80.50.20.

Electrical Transmission Lines

  • Electrical transmission facilities in a national interest electric transmission corridor.

WAC 463-61-030; RCW 80.50.20.

An applicant (developer) may also choose to receive certification under EFSEC in the following circumstances:

  • Electrical transmission facilities greater than 115 kV and located outside an electrical transmission corridor;
  • Electrical transmission facilities at least 115 kV and located in a new corridor or located in more than one jurisdiction that has promulgated land use plans and zoning ordinances.

WAC 463-61-030; RCW 80.50.20.

Note: RCW 80.50.110; 120 allow EFSEC to preempt all state and local laws, ordinances, and restrictions that may prohibit project development.

8-WA-a.3 to 8-WA-a.4 – Request Preliminary Site Study (If Applicable)

Prior to submitting an Application for Site Certification (“Application”), a prospective applicant (developer) may request EFSEC conduct a Preliminary (or Potential) Site Study. “Conducting a Preliminary Site Study can help determine if there are any environmental, social, or regulatory hurdles that the developer cannot overcome, rendering the project unsuitable. In addition, a Preliminary Site Study allows EFSEC to begin assessing what resource it will need for reviewing and processing the Application.

After receiving a request to study a potential site, EFSEC commissions an independent consultant to study relevant site issues. The study includes preparing and analyzing environmental impact information for the proposed site. Any other matters EFSEC and the applicant (developer) think are essential to an adequate appraisal of the potential site are also studied. In conducting the study, EFSEC cooperates with:

  • Cities, county or counties in which the potential site is located;
  • Any federal, state, or local governmental agency that might be requested to comment upon the potential site; and
  • Any municipal or public corporation having an interest in the matter.”

In addition, a developer must submit a $10,000 fee with the request for a Preliminary Site Study. EFSEC will not take any action until receiving the fee. EFSEC applies the fee to the study. If EFSEC finds that $10,000 is insufficient to cover the costs of the study, EFSEC advises the applicant (developer) and requests additional funds. The study is discontinued if the applicant (developer) does not agree to pay the additional costs.

Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council – Siting Review Process Website.

8-WA-a.5 – Conduct Initial Consultation

Before filing a pre-application request, the developer must meet and consult with EFSEC concerning the proposed project. Topics for discussion must include, but are not limited to:

  • The nature of the project, the contents of the pre-application request and the status of the developer’s progress toward obtaining information and data regarding the project;
  • A discussion of whether a third-party contractor is likely to be needed to prepare an environmental documentation for the project;
  • Development of a pre-application plan to be filed with the pre-application request; and
  • The coordination of the public informational meeting. WAC 463-61-040.

8-WA-a.6 – Pre-Application Request

The developer must file a pre-application request with EFSEC, and it should contain the following:

  • The name and mailing address of the developer, including a contact name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address of the contact person;
  • A description of the proposed transmission route and corridor, including location maps and plot plans to scale, showing all major components, including a description of zoning and site availability for any permanent facility, and including whether and to what extent the proposed project is located within a national interest electric transmission corridor;
  • A description of the proposed right-of-way width for the transmission line, including the extent a new right-of-way will be required or an existing right-of-way will be widened;
  • A description of the proposed transmission line structures and their dimensions;
  • A description of the schedule desired for the project, including the expected application filing date, the expected beginning date for construction, and the expected project operational date;
  • A list of federal, state, tribal and local government entities, including mailing addresses, contact names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses that have possible permitting responsibilities for the project or ownership of land on which the project will be located;
  • Information or data that may be available at a later date;
  • A summary and timeline of any initial consultation to explain the proposal and/or request input from the EFSEC staff, federal, state and local agencies, tribal governments, property owners, and interested persons;
  • A public participation plan; and
  • A negotiation process acceptable to EFSEC between the developer and the cities, towns, and/or counties through which the proposed transmission line corridor will be located except where the cities, towns, and/or counties have designated transmission corridors through their land use plans or zoning ordinances. WAC 463-61-050.

The developer must deposit ten thousand dollars with the state treasurer to cover pre-application costs as a condition for proceeding with the process. EFSEC manages the costs during the pre-application process. If costs of the pre-application process exceed ten thousand dollars, then the developer will be given the opportunity to agree on any further costs incurred by EFSEC. If portions of the funds deposited are not needed for the pre-application process, then the developer may request that the funds be applied to the costs of the review of an application for site certification or the funds will be returned. WAC 463-61-090.

8-WA-a.7 – Provide Notice of Pre-Application

The developer must provide notice within three days of filing a pre-application. The developer must provide notice to the following:

  • All towns, cities, and counties in which the proposed electric transmission line route is located;
  • Persons or governmental agencies owning land that may be acquired for the project or in which an easement may be sought;
  • Land owners within three hundred feet of the proposed corridor; and
  • Tribal, federal and state permitting entities if the project proponents were not to choose the EFSEC review.

The notice must contain a summary of the proposed project, the pre-application and application process and tentative schedules thereof, the locations where copies of the notice are located in each town, city and county traversed by the proposed transmission route, and the address of a web site containing the proposed project information. WAC 463-61-060.

8-WA-a.8 – Provide Public Notice of Pre-Application Meeting

A public information meeting is required. At least two weeks before the date of the public meeting, the developer must publish public notice of the meeting in newspapers of general circulation for each town, city and/or county where the site is proposed. WAC 463-61-060(4)(d).

8-WA-a.9 – Conduct Public Informational Meeting

EFSEC must conduct at least one public informational meeting within sixty days of receiving a pre-application. The public informational meeting is to inform the public and interested entities of relevant information regarding the proposed electrical transmission facility. WAC 463-61-060(4); WAC 463-26 – Public Informational Meetings and Land Use Hearing; WAC 463- 43 -040.

8-WA-a.10 – Conduct Corridor Negotiations

If no corridor location was chosen during the pre-application process, then the developer and affected cities, towns, and/or counties must negotiate to designate a corridor for the electrical transmission facility. If no corridor is chosen after 60 days of negotiation, then the parties may request EFSEC to extend time for negotiations. WAC 463-61-080.

8-WA-a.11 – Application for Site Certificate Agreement

An Application for a Site Certificate Agreement (“Application”) for site certification may be submitted when the pre-application process is completed. The pre-application process is complete when:

  • EFSEC has held one or more public meetings; and
  • Negotiations between affected cities, towns, and/or counties have been conducted and a corridor has been agreed on; or
  • Negotiations have been conducted but the developer, cities, towns, and/or counties have not agreed on a corridor and EFSEC determines that negotiations have failed. WAC 463-61-100.

The Application must include, at minimum, the following:

  • A description of the applicant (developer), including contact information;
  • Whether the applicant (developer) is applying for an expedited review process;
  • A complete environmental checklist (required for those applicant’s seeking an expedited review);
  • A detailed description of the proposed site location;
  • Legal descriptions and ownership interests;
  • A detailed description of the construction on site;
  • Identify the federal, state and industry criteria used in the conceptual design, route selection, and construction of the facilities;
  • Proposed construction schedule, identity the major milestones, and describe activity levels versus time in terms of craft and noncraft employment;
  • A brief description of all present or projected schedules for additional environmental studies;
  • An analysis of alternatives for site, route, and other major elements of the proposal; and
  • A description of the existing environment, project impacts, and mitigation measures.

WAC 463-60-010 et seq.

For a complete list of Application requirements, see WAC 463-60-010 et seq.

8-WA-a.12 to 8-WA-a.13 – Review Application Materials

EFSEC must review the Application materials of the proposed corridor and proposed project for administrative and technical completeness before making a recommendation to the Governor. WAC 463-61-110.

8-WA-a.14 to 8-WA-a.15 – Publish Notice of Public Hearing

Subsequent to the informational public hearing, the EFSEC must hold a public hearing to determine whether or not the proposed site is consistent and in compliance with city, county, or regional land use plans or zoning ordinances. WAC 463-26-050; RCW 80.50.090(2).

8-WA-a.16 – Does the Project Qualify for an Expedited Review?

Following the review of an Application, environmental checklist, and land use hearing, and within 120 days of receipt of an Application or a later date as agreed upon by the applicant (developer) and the EFSEC, the EFSEC by order will grant expedited processing for an Application when it has found that:

  • The developer will mitigate the environmental impact of the proposed energy facility or transmission line project to a nonsignificant level under the State Environmental Policy Act; and
  • The project is found to be consistent and in compliance with city, county, or regional land use plans.

WAC 463- 43-030, 43-050.

If EFSEC determines that the Application qualifies for an expedited review, EFSEC will not:

  • Conduct any further review of the Application by an independent consultant. However, at the direction of EFSEC an independent consultant may prepare studies that may be needed as part of a recommendation to the Governor;
  • Hold an adjudicative proceeding; and
  • Continue an adjudicative proceeding that has commenced.

WAC 463- 43 -060.

8-WA-a.17 to 8-WA-a.19 – Publish Notice of Public Hearing

Prior to issuances of an EFSEC recommendation to the Governor, EFSEC may need to conduct an additional public hearing. This hearing conducted, as an adjudicative proceeding must allow for public comment to be heard in support or opposition of the Application. WAC - 463-30 – Adjudicative Proceedings; RCW 80.50.090(3). EFSEC must publish notice of the hearing at least twenty (20) days in advance of the hearing date. WAC 463-30-080. The notice must include a statement that describes all actions taken to date regarding the proposed site, and clearly state that any person may be allowed to present timely written or oral argument for or against the proposed site to be certified. WAC 463-30-090. Any interested person may present written or oral comment regarding the Application.

8-WA-a.20 – Recommendation to Governor

EFSEC forwards the application and recommendation to the Governor for review. EFSEC must report to the Governor their recommendations as to the approval or rejection of an application for certification within twelve months of receipt of such application.

Every recommendation to the Governor must:

  • Be correctly captioned to identify EFSEC and name of the proceeding;
  • Identify all parties and representatives participating in the proceeding;
  • Include a concise statement on the nature and background of the proceeding;
  • Contain appropriate numbered findings of fact;
  • Contain appropriate numbered conclusions of law, including citations to statutes and rules relied upon;
  • Contain a recommendation disposing of all contested issues;
  • Contain such other information deemed appropriate by the council; and
  • Contain a statement describing the parties’ rights to reconsideration or other administrative relief. WAC 463-30-320.

Expedited Review

Within sixty days following the granting of expedited processing or such later time as mutually agreed upon by the applicant (developer) and EFSEC, the EFSEC must forward its recommendation, and if the recommendation is for approval, the EFSEC must also forward a copy of a draft site certification agreement to the Governor. WA 463-30-080.

8-WA-a.21 – Review Application for Site Certification and Recommendation

The Governor has sixty days to consider EFSEC’s recommendation and may take one of the following actions:

  • Approve EFSEC’s recommendation and execute the certification;
  • Reject the application; or
  • Direct EFSEC to reconsider certain aspects of the project and certification. RCW 80.50.100(3)(a).

If the Governor instructs EFSEC to reconsider aspects of the application, then the developer may be required to amend the certification based on suggestions by EFSEC. RCW 80.50.100(2).

8-WA-a.22 to 8-WA-a.23 – Does the Governor Approve?

If the Governor rejects the application, then that decision is final. However, the developer may submit a subsequent application for the same site on the basis of changed conditions or new information. RCW 80.50.100(4).

8-WA-a.24 –Site Certification Agreement

If the Governor chooses to approve the application, then the Governor will execute the Site Certification Agreement. The certification is binding upon execution by the Governor and the developer. RCW 80.50.100(2)(b).

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