US Department of Energy Releases Proposed Rule Setting Two-Year Timeline for all Federal Approvals and Permits for Transmission Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has proposed a rule that will streamline the siting, permitting, and construction of certain electric transmission infrastructure throughout the United States. Specifically, the proposed rule introduces the Coordinated Interagency Transmission Authorizations and Permits (CITAP) Program, which is designed to expedite the federal review, permitting, and approvals processes for new transmission facilities by coordinating those processes among an array of federal agencies. The agencies that will participate in the CITAP Program include the DOE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others. If implemented, the proposed rule could drastically reduce the timelines on which transmission lines and associated infrastructure are constructed, making way to bring new resources like renewables online faster.

Most significantly, the proposed rule establishes a two-year timeline for all relevant federal authorizations, including environmental reviews and permits. Federal approvals are typically required for transmission infrastructure that crosses federal land or a major body of water or impacts an endangered species, among other scenarios. Currently, there is limited coordination among federal agencies with respect to permitting electric transmission infrastructure, and developers frequently must navigate the separate timelines of each agency, resulting in extended approval timeframes. This ultimately delays facility construction, sometimes by years. As part of the proposed two-year timeline, the DOE published a draft standard schedule that outlines how the agency plans to consolidate the federal application and approvals process for new transmission projects. Notably, the standard schedule is only a template, as each transmission project will receive its own specific schedule that will establish timelines for each applicable agency to complete its review and permitting processes.

Under the draft rule, a developer must participate in the DOE’s Integrated Interagency Preapplication (IIP) process to be eligible for participation in the accelerated CITAP Program. The IIP process encourages early coordination between the developer, federal permitting agencies, and other stakeholders. As part of the IIP process, the proposed rule would also require a developer to submit a public engagement plan that details how the developer will engage and consult with various stakeholders, including tribal and other local interests, throughout the project’s lifetime.

The proposed rule, if implemented, will not change any state or local approvals that may apply to a given developer or project, as those processes will remain coordinated through state and local governments.

Interested stakeholders may provide comments on the proposed rule up to 45 days after it is published on the Federal Register. Commenters may do this through the federal government’s eRulemaking Portal or via another process identified in the DOE’s notice of proposed rulemaking.

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