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Department of Energy proposes reduced environmental review standards for some renewable projects

Under the proposed rule, some transmission lines, solar farms and energy storage facilities would be able to receive permits with much simpler environmental review standards.

Published: November 17, 2023 3:33pm

The U.S. Department of Energy released a proposed rule Thursday that will lower environmental review standards for certain renewable energy projects on public land.

Projects eligible for “categorical exclusions” under the rule would not be required to perform environmental assessments (EA) or the more stringent environmental impact statement (EIS), which are part of the permitting process under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Solar farms over 10 acres currently require an EA or EIS, and the proposed rule would remove that limit when the project is on already developed land, allowing for a simpler environmental review to satisfy permitting requirements.

Transmission lines over 20 miles long, which currently aren’t eligible for simpler reviews, would also be eligible under the proposed rule.

Battery facilities, as well as flywheel storage, which "converts excess electricity from the grid to kinetic energy in a fast-spinning rotor," on already developed land would also be eligible for the simpler environmental review under the proposed rule.

The DOE says the rule would result in reduced cost and benefits associated with environmental analysis, which will improved grid reliability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Comments on the proposal are due Jan. 2.

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