Energy Siting Commission Recommends Strong Planning Role
Here’s a brief summary of the recommendations of the Siting Commission related to regional and municipal plans:
The PSD shall develop a state roadmap for meeting Vermont’s statutory energy targets and CEP goals through scenario planning to enable policymakers to understand a range of potential paths for: the mix of in-state and out-of-state energy sources; the anticipated mix of technologies; areas of high and low potential for energy siting; economic and environmental costs and benefits; and the broad parameters for cumulative impact. This will also provide RPCs with essential guidance to carry out their own energy planning so as to contribute to overall state energy goals.
RPCs shall develop energy guidelines, policies, and land use suitability maps as part of their regional plans in order to identify high/low potential areas for electric generation siting consistent with legislated energy goals and the CEP. The PSD/ANR will provide the necessary guidance, tools, training, and resources to RPCs to work with municipalities to develop plans that reflect their geographic characteristics as well as their energy generation, conservation, and efficiency priorities. By updating regional plans to include these guidelines, policies, and land-use suitability maps (to be defined in relevant statutes), RPCs shall have formal party status and their plans shall be given ‘substantial consideration’ (i.e. greater weight) under 30 V.S.A. § 248 in the siting process. If determined by the PSD to be consistent with legislated energy goals and the CEP, the plans shall be ‘dispositive’ under 30 V.S.A. § 248 in the siting process.
As a top priority for legislative attention, RPC planning costs must be adequately funded in order for these recommendations to be meaningful (estimated initial cost of $40,000 per region, to be administered by the PSD). Regular updates of these plans will be necessary and should also be adequately funded.
Municipal plans found to be compatible with the revised regional plans shall be given ‘substantial consideration’ (i.e. greater weight) by the PSB in the siting process. Currently 30 V.S.A. § 248(b)(1) requires that the PSB give ‘due consideration’ to recommendations of the municipal planning commissions and legislative bodies, and the land conservation measures contained in the plan of any affected municipality.
The Siting Commission also recommends the creation of a tiered permitting process, and intervener funding for RPCs that participate in Section 248 permit reviews.
The report will no doubt raise many questions, and at this point the recommendations of the Siting Commission are just that – recommendations. This report is the beginning of a process, not the end. There will be much deliberation about which, if any, of these recommendations are to be put into effect. In many cases, these recommendations will require changes to existing statute, as well as appropriations. We will be discussing this report within the WRC, and will engage in the deliberations that are to come. Your thoughts on the Siting Commission’s recommendations are welcome!