The U.S. Department of Energy is proposing changes to its rule-governing compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed changes amend DOE’s list of categories of projects which, because they typically do not have significant environmental impacts, qualify for the simplest form of environmental review under NEPA.
DOE proposes to simplify the environmental review process for certain energy storage systems such as battery systems, transmission line upgrades, and solar photovoltaic systems. DOE is taking these steps to reduce the cost and time for environmental analysis incurred by DOE, project developers, and the public for these projects.
DOE is basing the proposed changes on years of experience evaluating the environmental impacts of these types of projects through research, conducting environmental reviews, and engaging with industry, local communities, and other government agencies. DOE carefully considered its experience with energy storage, transmission line upgrades, and solar energy projects to propose a simpler environmental review process. Under the proposed changes, DOE would continue to look closely at each proposed project while being able to complete its environmental review responsibilities in a faster and less expensive manner.
Energy Storage Systems
DOE’s proposed rule promotes the development of these storage systems by simplifying the environmental review process for building, operating, upgrading, or decommissioning battery or flywheel energy storage systems within or near areas which have already been developed.
Transmission Line Upgrades
DOE recognizes that upgrading and rebuilding transmission lines can extend their useful life, reduce the need for new power lines, and update our power grid with newer, more efficient, and more resilient technology. The revisions to DOE’s category for transmission line upgrades are designed to capitalize on these advantages, which can increase transmission capacity, improve transmission efficiency, enhance energy resilience, avoid or reduce adverse environmental impacts, and reduce cost to consumers. DOE’s proposed changes will remove existing limitations on the length of existing powerlines that are eligible for the simplest form of NEPA review, give developers the option to relocate within land already allocated to or developed for their power line, and require that upgrades or rebuilds of the line incorporate best practices to protect the local environment.
Solar Photovoltaic Systems
DOE’s proposed rule would increase the size of solar projects that qualify for the simplest environmental reviews under NEPA.