The Utility Environmental Protection Act (UEPA) was enacted in 1971 to address environmental issues related to the construction of utility facilities. UEPA permits granted by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) apply to:
- Conventional power plants.
- Renewable energy power plants rated over 70 Megawatts (nameplate).
- Electric transmission facilities rated over 200 kilovolts.
- Gas transmission lines and associated facilities.
- Water transmission lines and associated facilities.
- Sewer transmission and treatment facilities.
Exemptions from the UEPA process include (but are not limited to):
- Electric transmission lines rated under 200 kV.
- Electric transmission lines required to be placed underground (in their entirety) by local ordinance.
- Electric and gas transmission lines constructed (in their entirety) within an incorporated city.
- Replacement of an existing facility with a like facility.
- Facilities for the storage, transmission or treatment of water from mining facilities.
PUCN Application Requirements
All applications must contain the following:
- A description of the location and the facility to be built.
- A summary of any environmental studies that have been made and a copy of each such study.
- A description of reasonable alternate location(s) for the facility.
- A description of the benefits and detriments for each location.
- An explanation of why the preferred location or plan was selected.
Federal Environmental Analysis
Projects requiring a federal environmental analysis will be evaluated in a two-step process for the PUCN's UEPA permit.
- The first step involves the submittal of an initial application with the PUCN concurrently with the appropriate federal agency filing. The initial application must contain a general description of the facility and a summary of the anticipated environmental studies for the project. Examples of applications can be found within the PUCN's "UEPA Guide for Applicants - Electrical Facilities" and "UEPA Guide for Applicants - Gas, Water & Wastewater Facilities," or on the UEPA Construction Permits Best Practices web page.
- The second step requires applicants to file an amended application no later than 30 days after the appropriate federal agency has issued its environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The amended application must contain the requirements described above that pertain to all applications. Additionally, the applicant must file the amended application with each other permitting agency through filing with the Nevada State Clearinghouse. All applications require proof of service of the application to each local government near the project as well as proof of public notice to the media outlets within the project area.
Permit Application Approval
The PUCN cannot approve or modify a permit unless it finds and determines:
- The probable effects on the environment.
- The extent to which facility is needed for reliability if it emits greenhouse gases and does not use renewable energy as its primary source for generating electricity.
- The need for the facility balances any adverse effects on the environment.
- The facility represents the minimum adverse effects on the environment given current technology and feasible alternatives.
- All permits, licenses and approvals required by federal, state, and local jurisdictions are obtained or in the process of being obtained for construction.
- The facility will serve the public interest.
The PUCN may condition the UEPA permit upon the applicant modifying the project if it believes any part of the project should be modified to better accommodate the environment. The PUCN must condition its permit on obtaining outstanding permits, licenses or other approvals if an applicant has not received all those applicable at the time the PUCN issues its order.
In these instances, the PUCN issues an order with "compliance items" in it, which must be completed by the applicant prior to the issuance of the UEPA permit.
If an applicant does not complete the compliance items called for in the PUCN's order within a reasonable period of time, the order may be vacated.
Codes & Statutes
All statutes that apply to UEPA permits may be found from Nevada Revised Statute 704.820 - 704.900.
All regulations that apply to UEPA permits may be found from Nevada Administrative Code 703.415 – 703.427.