No person may construct a large electric generating plant without a site permit from the commission. A large electric generating plant may be constructed only on a site approved by the commission. The commission must incorporate into one proceeding the route selection for a high-voltage transmission line that is directly associated with and necessary to interconnect the large electric generating plant to the transmission system and whose need is certified under section 216B.243.
No person may construct a high-voltage transmission line without a route permit from the commission. A high-voltage transmission line may be constructed only along a route approved by the commission.
Any person seeking to construct a large electric power generating plant or a high-voltage transmission line must apply to the commission for a site or route permit. The application shall contain such information as the commission may require. The applicant shall propose at least two sites for a large electric power generating plant and two routes for a high-voltage transmission line. Neither of the two proposed routes may be designated as a preferred route and all proposed routes must be numbered and designated as alternatives. The commission shall determine whether an application is complete and advise the applicant of any deficiencies within ten days of receipt. An application is not incomplete if information not in the application can be obtained from the applicant during the first phase of the process and that information is not essential for notice and initial public meetings.
At least 90 days before filing an application with the commission, the applicant shall provide notice to each local unit of government within which a route may be proposed. The notice must describe the proposed project and the opportunity for a preapplication consultation meeting with local units of government as provided in subdivision 3b.
Within 30 days of receiving a project notice, local units of government may request the applicant to hold a consultation meeting with local units of government. Upon receiving notice from a local unit of government requesting a preapplication consultation meeting, the applicant shall arrange the meeting at a location chosen by the local units of government. A single public meeting for which each local government unit requesting a meeting is given notice satisfies the meeting requirement of this subdivision.
Within 15 days after submission of an application to the commission, the applicant shall publish notice of the application in a legal newspaper of general circulation in each county in which the site or route is proposed and send a copy of the application by certified mail to any regional development commission, county, incorporated municipality, and town in which any part of the site or route is proposed. Within the same 15 days, the applicant shall also send a notice of the submission of the application and description of the proposed project to each owner whose property is on or adjacent to any of the proposed sites for the power plant or along any of the proposed routes for the transmission line. The notice must identify a location where a copy of the application can be reviewed. For the purpose of giving mailed notice under this subdivision, owners are those shown on the records of the county auditor or, in any county where tax statements are mailed by the county treasurer, on the records of the county treasurer; but other appropriate records may be used for this purpose. The failure to give mailed notice to a property owner, or defects in the notice, does not invalidate the proceedings, provided a bona fide attempt to comply with this subdivision has been made. Within the same 15 days, the applicant shall also send the same notice of the submission of the application and description of the proposed project to those persons who have requested to be placed on a list maintained by the commission for receiving notice of proposed large electric generating power plants and high voltage transmission lines.
The commissioner of the Department of Commerce shall prepare for the commission an environmental impact statement on each proposed large electric generating plant or high-voltage transmission line for which a complete application has been submitted. The commissioner shall not consider whether or not the project is needed. No other state environmental review documents shall be required. The commissioner shall study and evaluate any site or route proposed by an applicant and any other site or route the commission deems necessary that was proposed in a manner consistent with rules concerning the form, content, and timeliness of proposals for alternate sites or routes.
The commission shall hold a public hearing on an application for a site permit for a large electric power generating plant or a route permit for a high-voltage transmission line. All hearings held for designating a site or route shall be conducted by an administrative law judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings pursuant to the contested case procedures of chapter 14. Notice of the hearing shall be given by the commission at least ten days in advance but no earlier than 45 days prior to the commencement of the hearing. Notice shall be by publication in a legal newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the public hearing is to be held and by certified mail to chief executives of the regional development commissions, counties, organized towns, townships, and the incorporated municipalities in which a site or route is proposed. Any person may appear at the hearings and offer testimony and exhibits without the necessity of intervening as a formal party to the proceedings. The administrative law judge may allow any person to ask questions of other witnesses. The administrative law judge shall hold a portion of the hearing in the area where the power plant or transmission line is proposed to be located.
(a) The commission's site and route permit determinations must be guided by the state's goals to conserve resources, minimize environmental impacts, minimize human settlement and other land use conflicts, and ensure the state's electric energy security through efficient, cost-effective power supply and electric transmission infrastructure.
(b) To facilitate the study, research, evaluation, and designation of sites and routes, the commission shall be guided by, but not limited to, the following considerations:
(1) evaluation of research and investigations relating to the effects on land, water and air resources of large electric power generating plants and high-voltage transmission lines and the effects of water and air discharges and electric and magnetic fields resulting from such facilities on public health and welfare, vegetation, animals, materials and aesthetic values, including baseline studies, predictive modeling, and evaluation of new or improved methods for minimizing adverse impacts of water and air discharges and other matters pertaining to the effects of power plants on the water and air environment;
(2) environmental evaluation of sites and routes proposed for future development and expansion and their relationship to the land, water, air and human resources of the state;
(3) evaluation of the effects of new electric power generation and transmission technologies and systems related to power plants designed to minimize adverse environmental effects;
(4) evaluation of the potential for beneficial uses of waste energy from proposed large electric power generating plants;
(5) analysis of the direct and indirect economic impact of proposed sites and routes including, but not limited to, productive agricultural land lost or impaired;
(6) evaluation of adverse direct and indirect environmental effects that cannot be avoided should the proposed site and route be accepted;
(7) evaluation of alternatives to the applicant's proposed site or route proposed pursuant to subdivisions 1 and 2;
(8) evaluation of potential routes that would use or parallel existing railroad and highway rights-of-way;
(9) evaluation of governmental survey lines and other natural division lines of agricultural land so as to minimize interference with agricultural operations;
(10) evaluation of the future needs for additional high-voltage transmission lines in the same general area as any proposed route, and the advisability of ordering the construction of structures capable of expansion in transmission capacity through multiple circuiting or design modifications;
(11) evaluation of irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources should the proposed site or route be approved; and
(12) when appropriate, consideration of problems raised by other state and federal agencies and local entities.
(c) If the commission's rules are substantially similar to existing regulations of a federal agency to which the utility in the state is subject, the federal regulations must be applied by the commission.
(d) No site or route shall be designated which violates state agency rules.
(e) The commission must make specific findings that it has considered locating a route for a high-voltage transmission line on an existing high-voltage transmission route and the use of parallel existing highway right-of-way and, to the extent those are not used for the route, the commission must state the reasons.
The permanent location of monuments or markers found or placed by a utility in a survey of right-of-way for a route shall be placed on record in the office of the county recorder or registrar of titles. No fee shall be charged to the utility for recording this information.
The commission shall make a final decision on an application within 60 days after receipt of the report of the administrative law judge. A final decision on the request for a site permit or route permit shall be made within one year after the commission's determination that an application is complete. The commission may extend this time limit for up to three months for just cause or upon agreement of the applicant.
(a) No site permit shall be issued in violation of the site selection standards and criteria established in this section and in rules adopted by the commission. When the commission designates a site, it shall issue a site permit to the applicant with any appropriate conditions. The commission shall publish a notice of its decision in the State Register within 30 days of issuance of the site permit.
(b) No route permit shall be issued in violation of the route selection standards and criteria established in this section and in rules adopted by the commission. When the commission designates a route, it shall issue a permit for the construction of a high-voltage transmission line specifying the design, routing, right-of-way preparation, and facility construction it deems necessary, and with any other appropriate conditions. The commission may order the construction of high-voltage transmission line facilities that are capable of expansion in transmission capacity through multiple circuiting or design modifications. The commission shall publish a notice of its decision in the State Register within 30 days of issuance of the permit.
The commissioner of the Department of Commerce shall consult with other state agencies and provide technical expertise and other assistance to the commission or to individual members of the commission for activities and proceedings under this chapter and chapters 216F and 216G. This assistance shall include the sharing of power plant siting and routing staff and other resources as necessary. The commissioner shall periodically report to the commission concerning the Department of Commerce's costs of providing assistance. The report shall conform to the schedule and include the required contents specified by the commission. The commission shall include the costs of the assistance in assessments for activities and proceedings under those sections and reimburse the special revenue fund for those costs. If either the commissioner or the commission deems it necessary, the department and the commission shall enter into an interagency agreement establishing terms and conditions for the provision of assistance and sharing of resources under this subdivision.