The Power Plant Siting Act (PPSA), Sections 403.501-.518, Florida Statute (F.S.), is the state's centralized process for licensing large power plants. One license — a certification — replaces all local and state permits. Local governments and state agencies within whose jurisdiction the power plant is to be built participate in the process. Certification addresses permitting, land use and zoning, and property interests. A certification grants approval for the location of the power plant and its associated facilities such as a natural gas pipeline supplying the plant's fuel, rail lines for bringing coal to the site, and roadways and electrical transmission lines carrying power to the electrical grid, among others.
Certification does not include licenses required by the federal government. The Power Plant Siting Act applies to all steam or solar electrical generating facilities that:
Since certification is a life-of-the facility authorization, the considerations involved in the application review are extensive. The application process for a new facility is discussed below.
Who Issues Certifications? Certification is issued by the Siting Board (Governor and Cabinet) or by the Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in non-contested cases.
Long-range Planning for Power Plants Ten-year Site Plans can be viewed on the Florida Public Service Commission website.
I. Pre-application Filing Activities
A. Notice of Intent - Section 403.5063, F.S. An applicant may file a Notice of Intent to indicate that it plans to submit an application, and then work with the reviewing agencies on what information to include in the application.
B. Need Determinations Need Determination, a formal process required under Section 403.519, F.S., is conducted by the Florida Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission reviews the need for the power generated by the proposed facility in relation to the needs of Florida.
C. Federally Delegated or Approved Permits Federal permits may be required separately and may include:
Preconstruction/Prevention of Significant Deterioration/New Source Review program (PSD/NSR)
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System/Wastewater program (NPDES)
Underground Injection Control program (UIC)
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program (RCRA)
A. Application Filing and Distribution - Section 403.5064, F.S. The application, with the appropriate fee, must be submitted to DEP's Siting Coordination Office.
B. Public Involvement and Parties to the Proceeding Entities and persons affected by a proposed project can attend the hearings and provide comments. Typically, attorneys represent parties at the proceedings.
C. Completeness - Section 403.5066, F.S. After the certification application is filed, the Siting Coordination Office (with input from affected agencies) determines if the application contains enough information for agencies to analyze impacts of the proposed project.
D. Land Use Determination - Section 403.50665, F.S. The application for certification includes a statement that the power plant and associated facilities are consistent with land use plans and zoning ordinances. Unless otherwise exempt by statute, the local government will make a finding regarding consistency with land use plans and zoning ordinances.
E. Public Notice by the Applicant - Section 403.5115, F.S. Public notices are made by the applicant for all applications. The many different types of notices are outlined in the statute.
F. Informational Public Meetings - Section 403.50663, F.S. The local government within whose jurisdiction the power plant is proposed may host a public meeting to receive public input.
G. Preliminary Statements of Issues - Section 403.507(1), F.S. Each affected agency may submit a Preliminary Statements of Issues to the Siting Coordination Office, the applicant and parties to the proceedings to address concerns with a proposed project.
H. Agency Reports 403.507(2), F.S. The Agency Reports, along with internal reports from the DEP districts and bureaus, must be submitted to DEP's Siting Coordination Office. Agency Reports (other than the Public Service Commission reports) need to include:
An assessment of jurisdictional issues.
A recommendation whether the agency would approve or disapprove the proposal if the project were being judged solely on their own jurisdictional authority.
The Conditions of Certification (permit provisos or other restrictions) recommended if the project is certified.
An assessment of any requested variances, exemptions, exceptions or other relief and a recommendation whether these should be granted.
An assessment of exceptions or other relief and variances that would be required to approve certification but which were not requested in the application, along with a recommendation whether these should be granted.
An assessment of issues related to the use, connection to, or crossing of an agency-owned or controlled land.
A summary of public comments received.
Citations to the applicable code, rule, statute demonstrating regulatory authority
The Siting Board may decide that it is in the overall best public interest to certify the project, regardless of a negative recommendation. The Public Service Commission’s report is required only to contain a copy of the Determination of Need.
I. Project Analysis - Section 403.507(5), F.S. DEP’s Siting Coordination Office prepares a project analysis based on the reports and recommendations of the affected agencies, the Public Service Commission and DEP's districts/bureaus. The Project Analysis includes:
A statement indicating whether the proposed electrical power plant (and proposed ultimate site capacity) will be in compliance and consistent with:
The nonprocedural requirements of the affected agencies, as based upon the information provided by those agencies.
Matters within DEP's standard jurisdiction (e.g., water quality, air quality, proprietary impacts on state-owned lands, state park protections, etc.).
An overall recommendation whether the project should be approved or denied. If denial is recommended, the reasons should be provided and corrective measures suggested.
J. Notice of the Certification Hearing - Section 403.508(2)(b) and subsequently Section 403.5115(1)(e), F.S. Notice of the hearing must be published in newspapers and in the Florida Administrative Register no later than 45 days before the hearing to ensure ample opportunity for the public to review the reports and analysis.
K. Certification Hearing - Sections 403.508 (2) and (3), F.S. A Certification Hearing must be held if the proposed project is disputed.
In a case where it appears that no hearing is necessary, a stipulation (legal agreement) is initiated asserting that there are no disputed issues that need to be raised at the certification hearing. In order for the hearing to be canceled, all parties to the proceeding must agree and sign the stipulation. DEP or the applicant will then submit this stipulation to the administrative law judge with a request that the administrative law judge release authority over the case. Section 403.508 (6) F.S.
The administrative law judge has five days to issue an order approving or denying the request.
The approval of cancellation must be accomplished in enough time for a large newspaper notice and a Florida Administrative Register notice to be published regarding the hearing cancellation at least three days prior to the date originally scheduled for the hearing. It is hoped that everyone interested in the case will be apprised of the notice and not travel to the previously announced hearing location.
Once the administrative law judge has canceled the hearing, DEP prepares the Recommended Order that forms the basis for a Final Order of Certification signed by the Secretary of DEP. See further below for details of Recommended Orders and Final Orders. To assist DEP in preparing the Recommended Order, the statute allows parties to submit proposed Orders to DEP for consideration. The Final Order must be issued by the Secretary within 40 days of the cancellation of the Certification Hearing.
L. Administrative Law Judge Recommended Order - Section 403.509, F.S. If a Certification Hearing has been conducted, the administrative law judge issues a Recommended Order that contains facts and conclusions of law about the matters raised at the hearing or in the application, along with the proposed Conditions of Certification if certification is recommended. The Recommended Order is submitted to DEP for presentation to the Siting Board.
M. Siting Board Hearing, Criteria for Certification The Siting Board hearing is typically a subset of a standard Governor and Cabinet meeting. To determine whether an application should be approved or denied, the Siting Board determines whether or not the electrical power plant and directly associated facilities and their construction and operation will:
Provide reasonable assurance that operational safeguards are sufficient for the public welfare and protection.
Comply with agency requirements.
N. Final Order Effective Date The signed Final Order is sent to the Clerk of the Siting Board for official entry.
March 13, 2020 - 1:13pm
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.