The Federal Government Should Encourage Early Public, Regulatory, and Industry Cooperation in Siting Energy Facilities

EMD-82-18: Published: Nov 13, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 1981.

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GAO reported on whether open-site planning for energy facilities could help balance energy and environmental concerns and what role, if any, the federal government should play in increasing the use of open-site planning processes.

Planning can be improved, and costly, time consuming licensing conflicts can be minimized if energy facility sponsors effectively consult with regulators and the public about their concerns early in project plans, while plans are still flexible. The traditional site-selection process involves industry deciding on the site, announcing the site commitment, and defending it before the regulatory agencies. This process often results in extended conflict and controversy because: project sponsors are reluctant to revise plans after applying for licenses, misunderstandings occur between industry and regulators, public hearings require additional time and money, the adversarial nature of regulatory proceedings promotes conflict and polarization, and conflicts may continue through costly and time consuming appeals. Opening the site-planning process to regulators and the public can potentially save time and money and result in more acceptable energy facility planning. GAO reviewed several open-site planning processes where industry initiatives included regulators and the public as early advisers rather than just reactive reviewers or adversaries. In other instances, regulators and the public took major initiatives in finding sites for energy facilities. GAO found that most participants were satisfied that open-site planning improved the siting process and reduced uncertainty regarding the acceptability of industry proposals. In addition, open-site planning can help in balancing domestic energy development with environmental protection and public participation values.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) should, where appropriate, cooperate with established open-site planning processes where later federal involvement is likely. Some industry and state processes that operate independently of and begin well before the environmental impact statement process or permitting process may want early input from federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) should, where appropriate, cooperate with established open-site planning processes where later federal involvement is likely. Some industry and state processes that operate independently of and begin well before the environmental impact statement process or permitting process may want early input from federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) should, where appropriate, cooperate with established open-site planning processes where later federal involvement is likely. Some industry and state processes that operate independently of and begin well before the environmental impact statement process or permitting process may want early input from federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Council on Environmental Quality

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) should, where appropriate, cooperate with established open-site planning processes where later federal involvement is likely. Some industry and state processes that operate independently of and begin well before the environmental impact statement process or permitting process may want early input from federal agencies.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman, CEQ, should, where appropriate, encourage an early, open environmental impact statement process, as conceived under the CEQ regulation implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, that facilitates more open-site planning for energy facilities. Specifically, early scoping that identifies regulatory and public concerns about alternative facility sites can help all interested parties clarify sites' acceptability and plan early to minimize siting conflicts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman, CEQ, should, where appropriate, encourage an early, open environmental impact statement process, as conceived under the CEQ regulation implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, that facilitates more open-site planning for energy facilities. Specifically, early scoping that identifies regulatory and public concerns about alternative facility sites can help all interested parties clarify sites' acceptability and plan early to minimize siting conflicts.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman, CEQ, should, where appropriate, encourage an early, open environmental impact statement process, as conceived under the CEQ regulation implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, that facilitates more open-site planning for energy facilities. Specifically, early scoping that identifies regulatory and public concerns about alternative facility sites can help all interested parties clarify sites' acceptability and plan early to minimize siting conflicts.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Council on Environmental Quality

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman, CEQ, should, where appropriate, encourage an early, open environmental impact statement process, as conceived under the CEQ regulation implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, that facilitates more open-site planning for energy facilities. Specifically, early scoping that identifies regulatory and public concerns about alternative facility sites can help all interested parties clarify sites' acceptability and plan early to minimize siting conflicts.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of CEQ should, where appropriate, advise siting process participants who are unfamiliar with it about experiences with open-site planning so that they can assess its usefulness and cooperate with efforts to begin using such processes. This should be done in connection with agencies' existing National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities to consult with project sponsors during early planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of CEQ should, where appropriate, advise siting process participants who are unfamiliar with it about experiences with open-site planning so that they can assess its usefulness and cooperate with efforts to begin using such processes. This should be done in connection with agencies' existing National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities to consult with project sponsors during early planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of CEQ should, where appropriate, advise siting process participants who are unfamiliar with it about experiences with open-site planning so that they can assess its usefulness and cooperate with efforts to begin using such processes. This should be done in connection with agencies' existing National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities to consult with project sponsors during early planning.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Council on Environmental Quality

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Energy and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of CEQ should, where appropriate, advise siting process participants who are unfamiliar with it about experiences with open-site planning so that they can assess its usefulness and cooperate with efforts to begin using such processes. This should be done in connection with agencies' existing National Environmental Policy Act responsibilities to consult with project sponsors during early planning.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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