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FERC Unanimously Approves New Transmission Siting Procedures in Order No. 1977

May 14, 2024

FERC's Order No. 1977, unanimously approved on May 14, lays out the framework for implementing its limited authority over siting electricity transmission lines, as revised by Congress in 2021. This order, set to take effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, aims to update the process for instances where FERC must exercise its siting authority.

FERC Chairman Willie Phillips emphasized its importance, stating, "This rule today follows the action of Congress in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 by updating the deliberative process for FERC in the event the Commission needs to act on a transmission siting request."

The order includes several key provisions. It introduces a Landowner Bill of Rights, ensuring that landowners potentially affected by proposed transmission lines are informed of their right to intervene in relevant Commission proceedings.

Phillips noted, "A transmission line applicant must include a copy of the Landowner Bill of Rights with the pre-filing notification mailed to affected landowners."

The order also codifies an Applicant Code of Conduct, which serves as a guideline for applicants to demonstrate their good-faith efforts in engaging with landowners during the permitting process.

Furthermore, the order directs applicants to develop engagement plans aimed at outreach to environmental justice communities and Tribes. This includes the production of Tribal Resources Reports, which consolidate requirements for describing the effects of projects on Tribes, Tribal lands, and Tribal resources. Applicants must identify affected Tribes, describe project impacts on Tribes, and develop Tribal Engagement Plans outlining outreach activities.

Applicants are also required to develop Environmental Justice Public Engagement Plans, detailing outreach activities targeted at potentially affected environmental justice communities. This information feeds into the creation of Environmental Justice Resource Reports, which identify impacted environmental justice communities and describe project effects, particularly whether any impacts would be disproportionately adverse.

The order does not adopt the proposal to allow simultaneous processing of state and FERC siting applications, acknowledging the primary role of states in the siting process.

Phillips remarked, "As a former state regulator, I recognize the primary role of the states in siting transmission within their borders."

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