On Friday, September 30th, RCRC submitted comments to the California Energy Commission (CEC) on draft emergency regulations creating an opt-in permitting framework for renewable energy and manufacturing facilities. 

AB 205 established an opt-in permitting process at the CEC for renewable energy, transmission, energy storage, and manufacturing projects in lieu of the traditional local permitting process.  Local governments strongly objected to AB 205’s creation of this permitting process.   

The CEC published draft regulations to implement AB 205 and solicited input from stakeholders.  The draft regulations largely conform to the process outlined in AB 205, but require local governments to be included in the applicant’s pre-filing consultation meeting.  RCRC’s comments outline many crucial changes that must be made to ensure notification and engagement of local governments, protection of the environment, mitigation of impacts on host communities, and preservation of commitments made by project proponents.   

Perhaps most troubling, the draft regulations require CEC staff to approve post-approval project modifications unless a very high bar is met.  It is only if those modifications require preparation of a subsequent or supplemental environmental impact report under CEQA that the Commission itself would have discretion to review the modifications.  This is an inappropriately high bar and could be exploited by project developers to walk back the environmental, economic, and cooperative commitments made to local governments, stakeholders, and the state. 

RCRC has suggested the following modifications to the proposed regulations: 

  • Expand the universe of permits applicants must disclose in the application. 
  • Ensure local review and verification of the project’s purported economic benefits. 

  • Authorize staff to request additional information of the applicant. 

  • Ensure information requested by responsible, trustee, and local agencies are requested of the applicant. 

  • Ensure the legitimacy of community-based organizations and that agreements are enforceable. 

  • Provide notices of meetings, workshops, and hearings to local governments and tribes. 

  • Modify the highly deferential and constraining post-certification project approval process to ensure environmental protection, mitigate impacts on host communities, and preserve commitments made by project proponents. 

For more information, contact RCRC Policy Advocate John Kennedy