A certificate of compliance may be required from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for certain major pipelines and electric transmission lines. Exploration for geothermal resources is also regulated. Associated facilities such as transportation links, pump stations and other facilities associated with the delivery of energy are included. Federally owned or controlled facilities must satisfy the substantive criteria of the Major Facility Siting Act (MFSA). There are special procedures that apply for facilities subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. A person who proposes to construct an energy-related project that is not defined as a facility under MFSA may petition DEQ to review the project under MFSA. The legislature found that the construction of additional lines, pipelines, and geothermal facilities may be necessary to meet the increasing need for electricity, energy, and other products; that it is necessary to ensure that the location, construction, and operation of covered facilities are in compliance with state law; and that a covered facility may not be constructed or operated within Montana without a certificate of compliance acquired pursuant to MFSA. The legislature also found the purposes of MFSA are to: ensure the protection of the state's environmental resources; ensure the consideration of socioeconomic impacts; provide citizens with an opportunity to participate in facility siting decisions; and establish a coordinated and efficient method for the processing of all authorizations required for regulated facilities. Timelines for review are indicated in figure 1. In general, electrical transmission lines greater than 69 kV may be covered under MFSA if they meet certain criteria. Electrical transmission lines of 230 kV or more and 10 miles or more in length are covered under MFSA unless certain criteria are met. Pipelines greater than 25 inches in inside diameter that are at least 50 miles long may be covered under MFSA if they meet certain criteria. Nuclear energy conversion facilities also are regulated under MFSA.
An applicant for a certificate under the Montana Major Facility Siting Act (MFSA) must file an application with the DEQ. Facilities covered by MFSA are listed in 75-20-104(8), MCA. Information concerning the need for the transmission line or pipeline, the proposed location, baseline data and reasonable alternate locations must be included in the application. See 75-20-211, MCA, Circular 1 and Circular 2 for details.
Statute: Montana Major Facility Siting Act, 75-20-101 et seq., MCA
1) The DEQ must notify the applicant within 30 days that the application is either complete or incomplete. If the application is incomplete and the applicant corrects it for resubmission, the department then has 15 days to advise the applicant that the application is complete and accepted.
2) The DEQ must issue a report describing alternatives and impacts within 9 months of the date of acceptance of a completed application.
3) Within 30 days following issuance of the report, DEQ must approve a facility if certain findings are made. See 75-20-301, MCA for details.
4) The certificate must include the requirement that construction of a linear facility be completed within 10 years following certification (five years for transmission lines 30 miles or less in length). Construction of a geothermal facility must be intitiated within 6 years of certification.
Appeal of Department Decisions
Decisions of the DEQ can be appealed to the Board of Environmental Review. Decisions of the Board of Environmental Review may can be appealed to state district court. Statute: 75-20-223, and 406, MCA.
The applicant for a certificate under the Montana Major Facility Siting Act is required to deposit a filing fee based on the estimated cost of the project in an earmarked revenue fund for use by the DEQ to administer the act. The DEQ may contract with the applicant for payment of the fee or the applicant must pay the fee in installments. See 75-20-215, MCA for details.
Findings for Certification
The DEQ shall approve a transmission line or pipeline facility as proposed or as modified or an alternative to the proposed facility if it finds and determines the need for the facility; the nature of probable environmental impacts; that the facility minimizes adverse environmental impact considering the state of available technology and the nature and economics of the various alternatives; what part, if any, would be located underground; that the location of the proposed facility conforms to applicable state and local laws; that the facility will serve the public interest, convenience and necessity; that the DEQ has issued all necessary decisions, opinions, orders, certifications and permits; and that the use of public lands for location of the facility is evaluated and public lands are selected whenever their use is as economically practicable as the use of private lands. See 75-20-301(1), for details.
The DEQ shall approve a geothermal facility as proposed or as modified or an alternative to a proposed facility if the department finds and determines that the facility or alternative incorporates all reasonable, cost-effective mitigation of significant environmental impacts; and unmitigated impacts, including those that cannot be reasonable quantified or valued in monetary terms, will not result in a violation of law or standard that protects the environment and that protects the public health or safety. See 75-20-301(3), MCA for details.
The board may not issue a certificate to construct a nuclear facility in Montana unless it meets the stringent criteria specified in 75-20-1203, MCA. All nuclear facilities are subject to a public referendum in order to be approved.