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On October 23, 2009, the Department of Energy and eight other Federal agencies entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve coordination among project applicants, federal agencies, states and tribes involved in the siting and permitting process for electric transmission facilities on Federal land. The MOU will improve uniformity, consistency, and transparency by describing each entity’s role and responsibilities when project applicants wish to build electric transmission facilities. Additionally, the MOU designates a “Lead Agency” serving as the single point-of-contact for coordinating all federal environmental reviews necessary to site electric transmission facilities on federal lands. In most instances, the Departments of Agriculture or Interior will be the Lead Agency, since they have jurisdiction over most of the Federal lands and right-of-ways for proposed electric transmission facilities.
Section VII (D) of the MOU requires DOE to maintain a publicly available website and links to the information available from all Participating and Cooperating Agencies. Pursuant to that section, DOE developed an online project tracking system known as eTrans, which can be accessed by DOE-designated Lead Agency project managers to enter pertinent information on 216(h)qualifying projects. The information provided by each project manager will be used by DOE to track schedules and project progress.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) declares that it is a national policy to enhance and, to the extent possible, increase the coordination and communication among Federal agencies with authority to site electric transmission facilities. The policies set forth by Congress in EPAct reinforce previous policies announced in Executive Order 13212, which was issued on May 18, 2001, by mandating each agency with the authority to issue Federal authorizations to ensure the timely and coordinated review and permitting of electric transmission facilities.
Section 1221(a) of EPAct 2005, which added section 216(h) to the Federal Power Act, stated that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is to coordinate all Federal authorizations and related environmental reviews needed for siting interstate electric transmission projects, including National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) reviews. The purpose of this coordination is to streamline agencies' review processes and avoid duplication among Federal agencies. Section 216(h) of the Federal Power Act authorizes DOE to coordinate Federal transmission facilities siting determinations for entities seeking permits, special use authorizations, certifications, opinions, or other approvals required under Federal law.
Proposed Rulemaking for Regulation Implementing Section 216(h)
On December 13, 2011, DOE published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for regulation implementing section 216(h). Comments on the proposed rule were originally due on January 27, 2012. The comment period was extended until February 27, 2012 to allow more time for the submission of comments. The process is ongoing and comments on the proposed rule are currently being reviewed.
After a regulatory action has been issued, Section 6(a)(3)(E) of EO 12866 requires agencies to identify in a complete, clear, and simple manner, the substantive changes between the draft submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review and the action subsequently announced, and identify those changes in the regulatory action that were made at the suggestion or recommendation of OIRA. The document at the link below is intended to comply with this requirement.
Changes recommended by OIRA