Multiple environmental laws covering issues beyond wildlife impact the permitting of renewable energy and transmission projects. While these regulations protect our air, land, and water, commonsense reforms could speed the clean energy transition.
Navigating the environmental framework that protects our air, land, and water
There are multiple environmental laws that impact the permitting of renewable energy and transmission that go beyond wildlife issues. These permitting matters arise under various statutes depending on the location of a project and potential impacts:
- Renewable projects that have a federal nexus (i.e., require a federal permit) face extensive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance issues. Undue delays and complexities in the environmental review process have, in some instances, deterred the development of renewable energy by adding years of review before a project can be constructed.
- Renewable energy project development may also involve the need for general or individual permits under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) for impacts to wetlands or “waters of the U.S.” – Section 404 dredge and fill permits.
- Projects on federal lands, which the Bureau of Land Management oversees, require rights of way and special use permitting under federal land management statutes, such as the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
- Projects must routinely ensure compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), regarding the protection of historic properties.
- Offshore wind facilities can require Clean Air Act (CAA) permits—general conformity permits—for several activities, such as installation, to ensure that they do not interfere with a state’s plans to attain and maintain national standards for air quality regarding criteria pollutants. If a project is located on tribal land, it can also be faced with various novel compliance issues, such as mineral law.
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