The development of utility-scale solar power generation projects on high-value farmland has become a concern for some farmland protection advocates, commercial farmers, county governments and state agencies. The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) has received a variety of comments on this topic, some urging rulemaking to change approval criteria and others encouraging the commission to allow rules as written to stand. This policy project began with consideration of whether the existing rules for siting utility-scale solar projects through a local conditional use process provide adequate protections for high-value farmland. Based on that initial analysis, the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) requested that LCDC initiate rulemaking to consider amendments to OAR 660-033-0130. This rulemaking project began in September 2018.
LCDC appointed a rulemaking advisory committee (RAC) to advise DLCD in the development of amendments to existing rules. The scope of the rulemaking that the RAC will consider includes consideration of:
- Whether to adopt as permanent the temporary rule adopted by the commission on July 26, 2018, regarding the “use, occupy or cover” language applied to acreage thresholds employed in OAR chapter 660, division 33 for energy facility siting
- Whether minor amendments to the definition of "photovoltaic solar power generation facility" would be helpful in applying the "use, occupy or cover" language established by the temporary rule, which is proposed to be made permanent as part of this rulemaking
- Whether the current provisions at OAR 660-033-0130(38) adequately protect high-value farmland
- Whether to retain, revise or remove the sunset date for the wildlife habitat provisions included at OAR 660-033-0130(38)(h)(F)
LCDC conducted a hearing on the proposed rule amendments at its January 24-25, 2019 meeting and adopted temporary rule amendments changing criteria for approval of solar facilities at the conclusion of that hearing. LCDC will hold a public hearing to consider new comments on the rule amendments on May 23, 2019. Written comments will be accepted until May 7, 2019. Oral comments will be accepted until the close of the hearing. The Department of Land Conservation and Development has issued notice of the May 23 hearing with instructions on how to participate.
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Rulemaking Hearing and Proposed Rules
January 24, 2019
Basement Hearing Room
635 Capitol St. NE
Salem, Oregon 97301
Temporary rule adopted on January 25, 2019