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Site Certificate Processing Time
 
 
The time needed to complete the site certificate process varies. There are many reasons for the variability in processing time:
  • The type of facility
  • The quality of the notice of intent and site certificate application
  • Site-specific issues
  • The applicant´s responsiveness to Department of Energy requests for additional information
  • Market conditions and other factors outside of the siting process that cause the applicant to postpone or slow down the process
  • Public concern about a proposed facility
  • Contested case proceedings
 
Between 1994 and 2010, the Siting Council issued 15 site certificates using the standard review process and six site certificates under the expedited process. Most site certificates were for natural-gas fueled power plants. In addition, the Council issued site certificates for a natural gas pipeline, a geothermal power plant, eight wind energy facilities and one ethanol production facility.
 
Overall processing time ranged from less than nine months to more than six years. The extremes represent unusual cases. Under the standard process, the typical overall time between receipt of a notice of intent and final decision by the Council has been about 27 months. Under the expedited process, the average overall time between receipt of a preliminary application and a final decision by the Council has been about 12 months.
 
The standard processing time has generally been reduced in recent years. Since 2005, the overall time under the standard process has been about 18 months. The overall processing time under the expedited process has continued to be about 12 months.  
 
Notice of Intent Phase
 
The notice of intent phase starts when an applicant submits a notice of intent (NOI). The NOI phase ends when the applicant submits an application for a site certificate.
 
During the notice of intent phase:
  • The public and state, federal and local agencies receive information about the proposed project and the Council´s review process
  • The public and agencies have an opportunity to ask questions, get more information and raise concerns
  • The Department holds a public informational meeting in the vicinity of the project site
  • The applicant gets a sense of the public and agency concerns and what the difficult issues will be
  • The applicant and the Department determine what statutes, state rules and local government requirements apply to the project
  • The Department identifies key issues and information that the application must address
  • The Department prepares a project order
 
Since 2005, the NOI phase in the standard review process has ranged from less than three months to about seven months. There is no NOI phase for an expedited review.
 
Completeness Phase
 
The completeness phase begins when the applicant submits an application for a site certificate. It ends when the Department finds the application complete. The Council rules in Division 21 describe the information the applicant must include in a complete application. Generally, an application is complete when the Department finds that it contains information that would support findings by the Council on each of the Council´s energy facility siting standards. Upon finding the application complete, the Department files the application.
 
During the completeness phase:
  • The Department consults with affected state agencies and local governments and asks for their comments on the application
  • The Department usually requests additional information from the applicant on specific aspects of the project that require more detailed analysis
  • The Department may conduct public informational meetings on the application
 
The time needed for completeness review depends very much on how carefully the applicant has prepared the application before submitting it and on how much additional information is necessary. Since 2005, the completeness review time has ranged from three to twelve months under the standard review process. In expedited reviews, the completeness phase has ranged from seven to nine months.
 
Draft Proposed Order Phase
 
The draft proposed order phase begins when the application is complete and ends when the Department issues a draft proposed order. The draft proposed order describes the proposed facility and summarizes the Department´s recommendations to the Council. The draft proposed order includes proposed findings on each of the Council´s standards. If the Department recommends that the Council approve a site certificate, the draft proposed order includes proposed conditions for the construction and operation of the energy facility.
 
Since 2005, the time needed to complete the draft proposed order phase has ranged from less than two months to about five months in the standard process. In expedited reviews, the draft proposed order phase has averaged about two months.
 
Proposed Order Phase
 
After issuing the draft proposed order, the Department conducts a public hearing. After the public hearing, the Council reviews the draft proposed order and the comments from the public hearing. The Council meeting is open to the public, but the Council does not take additional public comment on the application at the meeting. Based on the Council discussion and direction to Department staff, the Department prepares and issues a proposed order and a notice of a contested case proceeding.
 
The proposed order phase begins when the Department issues the draft proposed order and ends when the Department issued the proposed order. Since 2005, the time needed to complete this phase in both the standard review process and the expedited review process has averaged about two months.
 
Decision Phase
 
The decision phase begins when the Department issues the proposed order and ends when the Council issues its final order.
 
Upon issuance of the proposed order, the Department issues a notice of a contested case proceeding. An independent hearing officer is in charge of the contested case proceeding, subject to the Council´s rules and the rules of Oregon´s Administrative Procedures Act. In general, the contested case proceeding includes the following:
  • A process to identify the parties in the proceeding and to determine the overall schedule and procedures
  • The hearing officer´s determination of the issues that the proceeding will address based on issues raised at the public hearing  
  • A process and period for discovery
  • Presentation by the parties of testimony and rebuttal (this is customarily done in written form)
  • Cross-examination (this is customarily done orally)
  • Filing of the parties´ opening briefs and reply briefs
  • The hearing officer´s deliberation and issuance of a proposed contested case order
  • The parties´ submission of exceptions to the proposed contested case order and responses to exceptions
 
After the conclusion of the contested case proceeding, the Council meets to review the hearing officer´s proposed order and, if there are intervenors, the parties´ exceptions and responses. The Council meeting is open to the public, but only parties to the contested case may comment at the meeting. Comments are limited to the issues in the contested case and to the facts presented during the contested case. The Council deliberates on the hearing officer´s proposed contested case order and Department´s proposed order (with regard to non-contested matters) and makes a decision whether to approve a site certificate. The Council then issues a final order.
 
If there are no parties who object to the proposed order, the contested case proceeding can be brief. In most cases, however, there have been significant issues to be addressed in the contested case proceeding.
 
Since 2005, the time needed for the decision phase for both standard and expedited review has been less than a month and a half. There have been no significant contested case issues.
 
The Council´s decision is subject to reconsideration and judicial review.  A party to the contested case may request reconsideration within 30 days after the Council´s decision. A petition for judicial review must be filed within 60 days after the decision. The Oregon Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction for judicial review.
 
The Statutory Time Frame
 
The Oregon Legislature has established a time frame for Council action on an application for a site certificate. The time periods set out in ORS 469.370(9) are summarized in the table below.
 
Under the statute, the time period starts when the application is "filed" and ends when the Council makes a final decision. Filing occurs at the end of the completeness phase, as described above. The Department and the Council make every effort to complete the site certificate review process in as short a time as possible, but the statutory time frame may be exceeded. There is no automatic issuance or denial of a site certificate when the statutory periods are exceeded (ORS 469.370(11)).
 
Since 2005, the average time between the filing of an application and a final decision by the Council has been less than six months under both the standard and expedited processes.
 
Combustion turbine, geothermal plant or underground natural gas storage facility9 months
Nuclear installations or thermal power plants with a capacity greater than 200 megawatts not described above24 months
Expansion of an existing industrial facility to include an energy facility 6 months
Expansion of an existing energy facility to reach a capacity of between 25 and 50 megawatts6 months
Adding injection or withdrawal capacity to an existing underground gas storage facility6 months
Generating plants for which the Council has granted expedited review  6 months
(9 months if there are intervenors in the contested case)
Any other energy facility12 months