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Virginia Regulators Considering Amendments to Rules for 150 Megawatt Solar Projects

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) has taken the first step towards amending existing permitting procedures for small solar energy projects. The potential amendments may help sustain the recent proliferation of solar energy in the Commonwealth. Since its adoption in 2012, the Small Energy Renewable Energy Projects (Solar) Permit by Rule has led to the permitting of thirty-one projects with a combined capacity of over 800 megawatts. Currently, sixty additional applicants have provided notice of their intent to construct and operate qualifying solar projects, with a combined additional capacity of 3,000 megawatts. 

The Permit by Rule streamlines the application and permitting process for solar energy projects with a capacity between 150 and 5 megawatts and that occupy 10 or more acres (small solar energy projects). Under the Permit by Rule, VDEQ authorizes the construction and operation of all small solar energy projects with a completed application that satisfies the rule’s project criteria. Applicants must submit:

  1. Proof of local government approval.

  2. Certification that all requisite environmental permits have been applied for or obtained.

  3. Interconnection studies and the interconnection agreement.

  4. An operating plan.

  5. A site plan.

  6. Certification that the project’s capacity will not exceed 150 megawatts.

  7. An analysis of potential environmental impacts, natural resources, and, if required under the rule, a mitigation plan.

  8. Any requisite fees.

Additionally, applicants must provide a 30-day public notice and comment period and hold a public meeting pursuant to procedures specified in the rule. 

Rather than proposing any specific changes to the Permit by Rule, VDEQ solicited public comments on how to best clarify the rule’s definitions, public participation procedures, and natural and cultural resource study requirements. VDEQ also sought public input on how to “establish clear timeframes for data submittals and recordkeeping activities.” VDEQ is currently formulating a Regulatory Advisory Panel to assist in developing proposed amendments to the Permit by Rule. As a part of this process, the Regulatory Advisory Panel and VDEQ will review all comments received during the public comment period (which closed on June 26, 2019). VDEQ will ultimately publish proposed amendments for public review, though the timing has not yet been announced.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 192

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About this Author

James M. Auslander Natural Resources & Project Development Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

James (Jamie) M. Auslander's legal practice focuses on project development, natural resources, and administrative law and litigation.

Mr. Auslander co-chairs Beveridge & Diamond’s Natural Resources and Project Development Practice Group, including its Energy Practice. He focuses on complex legal issues surrounding the development of oil and gas, hard rock minerals, renewable energy, and other natural resources on public lands onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf. He frequently litigates appeals before federal courts and administrative bodies regarding rulemakings, permits...

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Brook Detterman Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA
Principal

Brook's practice focuses on climate change, renewable energy, and environmental litigation.

Brook helps his clients to navigate domestic and international climate change programs, develop renewable energy projects, and generate carbon offsets.  He helps his clients to negotiate, structure, and implement transactions related to carbon offsets and renewable energy, and works with clients during all phases of renewable energy and carbon offset project development.  Brook also represents clients during complex environmental litigation, having served as litigation and appellate counsel during dozens of proceedings in state and federal courts across the country. 

Prior to joining the firm, Brook was an associate in the environmental department of a large international law firm.

Brook served as a law clerk at the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, where he worked on a range of legal issues arising under federal environmental law, including Clean Water Act (CWA) wetlands jurisdiction, liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) compliance, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements.

Brook also maintains an active pro bono practice, counseling individuals and non-profit entities on a range of legal matters in Massachusetts.

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Hilary T. Jacobs Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Associate

Hilary maintains a general environmental litigation and regulatory practice, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors.

She joined the Firm following her graduation from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (UM Carey Law). 

While at UM Carey Law, Hilary served as a law clerk in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Water Enforcement Division, and served as Articles Editor for the Maryland Law Review. She also worked in the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic to...

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