On August 29, 2013, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) issued a request for information (“RFI”), seeking comments on its draft Integrated, Interagency Pre-Application (“IIP”) process.  This IIP process is aimed at establishing a “coordinated series of meetings and other actions” before a federal agency would accept a high-voltage transmission line application or take other action to trigger federal review.  The draft IIP process was prepared in compliance with President Obama’s memorandum “Transforming our Nation’s Electric Grid Through Improved Siting, Permitting and Review” (see June 14, 2013 edition of the WER).  The memorandum required agencies to:

develop an integrated, interagency pre-application process for significant onshore electric transmission projects requiring Federal approval. The process shall be designed to: promote predictability in the Federal siting, permitting, and review processes; encourage early engagement, coordination, and collaboration of Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, non-governmental organizations, and the public; increase the use of integrated project planning early in the siting, permitting, and review processes; facilitate early identification of issues that could diminish the likelihood that projects will ultimately be permitted; promote early planning for integrated and strategic mitigation plans; expedite siting, permitting, and review processes through a mutual understanding of the needs of all affected Federal agencies and State, local, and tribal governments; and improve environmental and cultural outcomes.

DOE will act as the lead agency coordinating the IIP Process between all the federal entities and the “Project Proponents.”  The IIP process would be available to “Qualifying Projects,” defined as: non-marine high-voltage transmission lines (230 kV and above) or regional or nationally significant non-marine transmission lines in which: (1) all or part of the proposed transmission line is used for transmission of electric energy in interstate commerce for sale at wholesale; and (2) all or part of the proposed transmission line crosses jurisdictions administered by more than one Federal Entity or crosses jurisdictions administered by a Federal Entity and meets other criteria.  Qualifying Projects do not include those for which an application has been submitted to FERC for issuance of a permit for construction or modification of a transmission facility, or where a pre-filing procedure has been initiated under the Federal Power Act.

Under the DOE’s draft IIP process, a Qualifying Project would be able to, but not required to utilize the IIP process.  All identified federal entities would be required to participate and attend certain meetings and provide feedback on certain high voltage transmission line projects.  These meetings will consist of: (1) Initial Meeting; (2) Study Corridors Meeting; (3) Routing Meeting and (4) Final Meeting.  During the meetings, Federal Entities would provide feedback to the Project Proponent and enable that entity to make adjustments to their application.  Following the Initial Meeting, the Project Proponent would submit quarterly status updates to DOE until the Final Meeting is complete.  DOE would provide these updates to Federal and Non-Federal Entities.  The Final Meeting would produce a description from the Federal Entities of remaining areas of concern and resource conflicts that could impact the time federal agencies will take to process applications for a certain facility.

DOE’s RFI seeks feedback on the IIP process as well as information on whether the IIP process meets the goals in the Transmission Presidential Memorandum.  Comments on the IIP process are due by September 30, 2013.

A copy of DOE’s RFI is available here.