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DOE releases final rule to streamline, expedite transmission projects

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced final updates toa policy that it said will expedite the modernization of the nation's electricinfrastructure and strengthen the grid.

The final rule on the integrated interagencypre-application, or IIP, process for siting electric transmission projects,published Sept. 28 in the Federal Register, encourages early-stage coordinationto streamline the permitting process between government agencies andtransmission planners.

Cooperation early on will help iron out potential issuesbefore a formal transmission permit application is submitted, the DOE said,adding that the simplified process will lead to more investment and increasedefficiency.

The IIP process is designed to "improve interagency andintergovernmental coordination, to encourage early engagement with local, stateand tribal stakeholders and to help ensure project proponents develop andsubmit accurate and complete information early in the project planningprocess," the DOE said.

The notice of proposed rulemaking was issued at thebeginning of 2016 and is part of larger goals by the Obama administration toimprove electric grid resiliency, reliability and security. In June 2013, federalagencies were directed by President Barack Obama to address transmissionpermitting issues through the creation of an IIP process.

The presidential memorandum "Transforming our Nation'sElectric Grid through Improved Siting, Permitting, and Review" was alsoaimed at improving the permitting process across federal, state and tribalgovernments.

The final rule noted that in the comments received on thedraft rule, many expressed support for the fact that the process is voluntary,that it would be coordinated by one agency — the DOE — and that the use ofinformation technology would be required, "which is intended to reducecosts while increasing the likelihood of remote participation in IIP meetingsand discussions by all potentially affected federal agency, tribal, and stateand/or local agency representatives," among other things.

The DOE called the final rule an "important step towarddelivering on the president's vision for spurring transmissiondevelopment" and a "key deliverable" for Obama's Climate ActionPlan, and said that a more efficient process can lead to better qualityprojects.

The final rule will become effective Nov. 28.