UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, DC  20240
http://www.blm.gov
July 28, 2010
 
In Reply Refer To:
2800 (350) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 08/04/2010
Instruction Memorandum No. 2010-169
Expires: 09/30/2011
 
To:                   All Field Officials
 
From:               Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management
 
Subject:           Implementation Guidance for the Interagency Transmission Memorandum of                                 Understanding
 
Program Area:  Rights-of-Way Management.
 
Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides guidance to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state and field offices on implementing the “Memorandum of Understanding among the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Department of the Interior, Regarding Coordination in Federal Agency Review of Electric Transmission Facilities on Federal Land” signed in October 2009.
 
Policy/Action: In October 2009, nine Federal agencies (Participating Agencies) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve coordination for the review and authorization of major electricity transmission lines that cross federally managed lands in the United States.  The MOU applies to Qualifying Projects (QP) which are defined as, “. . . high voltage transmission line projects (generally though not necessarily 230 kV or above), and their attendant facilities, or otherwise regionally or nationally significant transmission lines and their attendant facilities, in which all or part of a proposed transmission line crosses jurisdictions administered by more than one Participating Agency.” The provisions of the MOU do not apply to certain projects as identified in Sections I and II of the MOU (attached). 
 
The MOU identifies the responsibilities of a lead agency and cooperating agencies, identifies a specific role for the Department of Energy (DOE), and outlines provisions for the BLM and the Forest Service (FS) when projects cross both agencies’ administered lands.  Participating Agencies have agreed to early and active engagement in the review of project proposals to identify and address project-specific issues, concerns, barriers, and environmental effects, and to ensure that the responsibilities of each agency are fully met.  
 
The main purpose of the MOU is to expedite greater efficiency in siting and permitting of QPs through better coordination with the applicant and other Federal agencies.  This IM reinforces the importance of this MOU with regard to defining roles and responsibilities for the review and authorization of QPs.  This IM clarifies procedures for initiating application review for a QP; for coordination with the BLM Washington Office (WO), the DOE, and the FS; for working with other Participating Agencies as cooperating agencies; and other relevant information.
 
The BLM will process a new or existing right-of-way (ROW) application for QPs using the procedures of the MOU and this IM.  These procedures will be applied as follows: 
  • Current QP:  If the BLM is the lead agency for a QP that is under review and already has a project team and agreements in place prior to the date of this IM, then the Authorized Officer (AO) will notify the Washington Office Branch Chief, Rights-of-Way (Branch Chief (WO-350)) of the QP.  The AO and the Branch Chief (WO-350) will consult to identify opportunities to implement certain specific provisions of the MOU, such as agreements for interagency technical assistance, that would most benefit the QP.  The Branch Chief (WO-350) will notify the DOE of the QP and the DOE will include it in their QP website (when developed), noting that the QP was initiated prior to the date of this IM. This procedure will formally document DOE’s designation of BLM as the lead agency.   
  • New QP:  All other QP applications received by the BLM will be processed according to the provisions of the MOU and this IM. Some limited exceptions may apply (see Washington Office Notification section below). 
Department of Energy Coordination (MOU Sections I., V., VII.)
The DOE is responsible for designating the lead agency for each QP, overseeing the project schedule, providing technical assistance in its areas of expertise, and maintaining a public website. The DOE will provide technical assistance with regard to evaluating transmission proposals, siting and mitigation issues, coordination with regional interconnect institutions, and assistance with determining the suitability of a proposed project as a QP based on national goals and objectives. 
 
The BLM will consult with the DOE regarding the project schedule and justify all changes to the DOE in writing.  The DOE will approve any changes to the project schedule and notify the BLM or consult with the BLM to resolve schedule concerns. The DOE public website, which is being developed, will serve as a central source of information.  The website will provide a list of QPs, lead agencies, general project schedules, links to agency websites for more specific information and filing requirements, and other pertinent information.  
 
Agency Points-of-Contact (MOU Section VIII.)
Each Participating Agency has agreed to designate an agency point-of-contact (POC) for the MOU. The BLM Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management (Assistant Director (WO-300), is the POC for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and for the BLM. As identified below, the Branch Chief (WO-350) will assist the Assistant Director (WO-300) by serving as the primary day-to-day contact for BLM state and field offices with respect to routine MOU procedures. 
 
It is, however, the responsibility of the AO and other project team members to fulfill the obligations of the MOU and coordinate at the appropriate organizational level with other involved agencies.
 
BLM Responsibilities (MOU Sections V., VII.)
This section addresses the steps necessary to initiate a QP and defines the BLM’s overarching role in the process.  Roles and responsibilities will be further identified in a project-specific MOU and/or Project Charter (see Weblinks section below). QPs are high priorities for the BLM and the DOI; state and field office managers will provide personnel and ensure timely participation and review of QPs. With respect to BLM timelines, calendar days are used where possible to be consistent with the regulations at 43 CFR 2804.25. 
 
Pre-Application Coordination (MOU Section V.):
The BLM managers and staff should strongly encourage project proponents to meet early with the BLM and other affected agencies and tribes, as described in the regulations at 43 CFR 2804.10. To ensure applicants submit thorough applications, the BLM managers and staff should refer applicants to agency websites for detailed information (see Weblinks section below). 
 
When a BLM office is notified of a potential QP, the responsible BLM manager will notify affected agencies and tribes in a timely manner and invite all parties to participate in a pre-application meeting either in person, or by audio or video conference. 
 
Initial Application: When a BLM office receives an initial application, the responsible BLM manager will ensure the applicant has simultaneously filed with other affected agencies as required by the regulations at 43 CFR 2804.12(e). If multiple applications were filed with the BLM, only one BLM office will review the application. Within 20 calendar days of receipt of the application, a written response to the applicant will be provided either accepting the application or returning the application with a list of deficiencies. If the application contains significant deficiencies, it will not be serialized in Legacy Rehost System 2000 (LR2000). Copies of the response will be provided to other BLM offices and other affected agencies. 
 
The responsible BLM manager will verify that the initial application contains the required information identified in the regulations at 43 CFR 2804.12. The responsible BLM manager will also determine if there is sufficient information that will enable the BLM to 1) identify whether the project is a QP, 2) identify a recommended Lead Agency, 3) serialize and establish the case in LR2000, and 4) initiate cost recovery. 
 
After the BLM has accepted the application as sufficiently complete, the application must be processed in a timely manner. In most instances the application will involve greater than 50 Federal work hours and thus processed as a Category 6 (major category) application, and the procedures in 43 CFR 2804.19 and 43 CFR 2804.25 will be followed. 
Washington Office Notification: If the initial application is sufficiently complete according to the criteria identified above, the responsible BLM manager will immediately notify the State Director (SD) of the state in which the application is filed as well as the Branch Chief (WO-350). The Branch Chief (WO-350) will immediately notify the DOE and the WO POC of the other affected Participating Agencies.    
 
If the application meets the criteria for a QP but for unique reasons, such as projects involving small amounts of Federal lands, would not benefit from the full provisions of the MOU, the responsible BLM manager will notify the SD who will notify the Branch Chief (WO-350). The Branch Chief (WO-350) will consult with the applicable agency managers to determine the specific MOU provisions to be used.  
 
Lead Agency Recommendation:  The SD where the initial application is accepted will immediately coordinate with other affected SDs and other participating agencies to determine a recommended lead agency. If there is no agreement among the agencies, the Assistant Director (WO-300) will consult with other agency POCs to determine a recommended lead agency. When the BLM is the recommended lead agency, the SD will submit the recommendation to the Branch Chief (WO-350) within 21 calendar days from receipt of an accepted application.
 
DOE Lead Agency Designation (MOU Section III.): Where the BLM is the recommended lead agency, the WO-350 Branch Chief will immediately notify the DOE.  The DOE has 2 calendar days to review the recommendation, after which it is deemed accepted. If the DOE disagrees with the recommendation, then the affected agency POCs will consult with each other and DOE. DOE has the final decision-making authority with respect to designating the lead agency.
 
Internal BLM Lead State/AO Delegation (BLM Manual 1203):  Where the BLM is the lead agency, the Assistant Director (WO-300), will delegate a lead state and AO based on the recommendations of the involved SDs. If no recommendations are forthcoming from the SDs, the Branch Chief (WO-350) will make a recommendation to the Assistant Director (WO-300), who will then delegate the lead state and AO. The lead state/AO delegation will be made within 7 calendar days subsequent to lead agency designation by DOE.
 
Cost Recovery:  If the BLM is the lead agency, cost recovery will be initiated with the applicant within 15 calendar days of the delegation of an AO. Under current procedures established by the National Operations Center, a signed Cost Reimbursement Agreement (CRA), a Collections and Billing System (CBS) receipt for the initial deposit, and a completed Form 1380-10, Cost Recovery Project Number Assignment and Information Data Form, are required to establish a reimbursable project account. It will be difficult at that time to make accurate processing cost estimates in the CRA with limited project information. Therefore, the CRA should contain provisions to allow cost estimates to be easily amended as detailed project information becomes available. 
 
Project Manager/Project Team:  Where the BLM is the lead agency, the AO will select a project manager (PM) and a project team subsequent to receiving cost recovery funds. The PM/Team selection will be made within 30 calendar days subsequent to receipt of cost recovery funds. In instances where the BLM AO needs the assistance of a WO National Project Manager, the AO will request assistance by contacting the Branch Chief (WO-350). Specific procedures for requesting assistance will be provided in separate guidance. 
 
Coordination with the FS under Service First (MOU Section VI.)
Many of the QPs in the West will involve both BLM and FS lands.  When the BLM is the lead agency, it will take full advantage of the MOU provisions regarding use of Service First authority. A single AO may be designated through a letter of delegation from one agency to the other, signed by each agency’s responsible manager (e.g., SD and Regional Forester or Forest Supervisor).  The AO will have the authority to issue all BLM final decisions including amendments to land use plans and issue the ROW grant. The AO will have the authority to also issue final decisions including amendments to forest plans and the special use authorization for FS. 
 
The AO will manage and supervise the work of the BLM and FS personnel on project teams (except where Union/Labor Relations or other preclusions apply).  Roles and responsibilities of each agency will be clearly identified in a project-specific MOU and/or project charter (see Weblinks section below).  
 
Single Project Manager (MOU Section VI.):  The AO is responsible for selecting a qualified PM.  The PM should be a senior specialist with previous experience in managing major ROW projects.  The PM will have overall responsibility for implementing all aspects of the application review, processing, and authorization, and will report directly to the AO.  The PM will oversee the work of the project team and ensure proper agency coordination. The PM for a QP is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of project information for the DOE website. Roles and responsibilities of the PM will be clearly identified in a project-specific MOU and/or project charter (see Weblinks section below).  
 
Single Project Team (MOU Section VI.): The AO, working with the PM, will select a project team consisting of individuals from the BLM and FS with expertise in the various resource disciplines and issues required for the review and potential authorization of the QP.  Such individuals will be assigned to the QP either full- or part-time and will be under the direct supervision of the AO for that particular QP (except where Union/Labor Relations or other preclusions apply).  Individuals from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service (NPS) may also participate on project teams under Service First authority.  
 
The project team will include a core team consisting of a single lead technical expert representing each relevant discipline within the full interdisciplinary team.  Unless precluded by law, regulation, or agency policy, these experts will establish coordinated and consistent standards and practices for compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act).  Roles and responsibilities of the project team members will be clearly identified in a project-specific MOU and/or project charter (see Weblinks section below).  
 
Cooperating Agency Duties (MOU Sections VI., VII., VIII., IX.)
Participating Agencies in the MOU have agreed to assist in the processing of QP applications as cooperating agencies when invited to do so.  When the BLM is the lead agency, it will immediately notify the POCs of potentially involved participating agencies when a QP application is accepted. Participating agency POCs will immediately notify their internal units and personnel of the possibility of participation in the QP as a cooperating agency to ensure early and effective engagement.
 
When the BLM is a cooperating agency, the responsible BLM manager will ensure that adequate personnel, expertise, data, and studies are provided in accordance with agreed-upon schedules, communicate the information or message effectively, and fully respond to lead agency requests as agreed upon in the MOU and any project-specific agreements.
 
When the BLM is the lead agency, the BLM will consult early and often with cooperating agencies to ensure that all agency lines of authority fulfill their roles and responsibilities for the QP.  AOs will take maximum advantage of the technical expertise and assistance available from these agencies.  Such expertise may include an assessment of risk and reliability concerns or evaluation of design features for electric transmission facilities, where the expertise of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or DOE could be advantageous.  Expertise may also include environmental/scientific assistance available from DOI agencies such as the FWS, NPS, and U.S. Geological Survey.  Any of the participating agencies may contribute personnel and expertise to the project team when requested.
 
Environmental Review and Energy Corridors
The BLM managers should encourage applicants to site their facilities within corridors designated pursuant to Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (see Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments/Record of Decision (ROD) for Designation of Energy Corridors on Bureau of Land Management-Administered Lands in the 11 Western States, January 2009) and other designated corridors, or parallel to existing ROWs where possible.  Use of the corridors may facilitate the application process for the applicant and assist the BLM in reducing the proliferation of separate ROWs across the landscape.
 
Environmental analyses conducted for designation of energy corridors pursuant to Section 368, as well as recommended mitigation measures for many types of impacts, are summarized in the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (FPEIS) (Designation of Energy Corridors on Federal Land in the 11 Western States, November 2009).  These analyses and mitigation measures are applicable to transmission line development throughout the West in Section 368 corridors. All BLM managers will tier to the analyses in the FPEIS to the extent the FPEIS addresses anticipated issues and concerns associated with individual QPs.
 
The ROD designating the Section 368 corridors adopted mandatory Interagency Operating Procedures (IOP).  These IOPs represent best management practices that provide applicants with a coordinated and consistent authorization process as well as practicable measures to avoid or minimize environmental harm within the corridors.  IOPs are mandatory for QPs that use the Section 368 corridors.  PMs and core team members will adopt the IOPs to the extent possible when developing coordinated, consistent standards for environmental review and compliance for QPs located partially or entirely outside of Section 368 corridors. 
 
LR2000 Data Entry
Where possible, the lead BLM office within the lead state will serialize the accepted application in LR2000 and establish the lead case file. Existing commodity and action codes will be used. Other affected states will also serialize the application in LR2000 for those lands within their respective jurisdictions. The lead state will ensure the general remarks section of LR2000 for the lead case file cross references the serial numbers of all other BLM states and includes the lead agency’s project tracking number if applicable. 
 
MOU Evaluation and Monitoring (MOU Section IX.)
For QPs where the BLM is the lead agency, the Assistant Director (WO-300) will schedule meetings with the appropriate agency POCs to evaluate the progress of QPs, and provide direction on unresolved issues.
 
Attachments
The interagency MOU is attached.  Please see the websites listed below for templates for a cooperating agency MOU, project charter, cost reimbursement agreement, and for information on Service First and the West-wide Energy Corridors.
 
Weblinks
For further information please consult the following websites: 
  • Service First: Background information, templates, tools, and contacts.
  • BLM Rights-of-Way:  Templates for a Cooperating Agency MOU, Project Charter, Cost Recovery Agreement, and other information.
  • West-wide Energy Corridor FPEIS and Record of Decision.
  • Department of Energy Qualifying Projects.
o   The web address for the DOE website will be sent via email as soon as it is active. 
  • Questions and Answers for implementing the MOU will be tracked on an internal site while this IM is reviewed and implemented.  The site location will be forwarded by email as soon as it is ready. 
Timeframe: The policy contained in this IM is effective immediately.
 
Budget Impact: Budget impacts should be minimal as long as reimbursable accounts are established timely after receipt of a complete application. 
 
Background: Subsequent to the signing of the MOU, the Participating Agencies agreed to implement the provisions of the MOU through internal guidance to their respective managers and staff.  This IM fulfills this BLM obligation.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: None.
 
Coordination:  This IM was coordinated with the signatory agencies of the MOU, the Office of the Solicitor, and the Minerals and Realty Management directorate, BLM state office ROW program leads, and BLM field office managers.
 
Contacts:  If you have any questions concerning the content of this IM, please contact me at 202-208-4201, or your staff may contact Lucas Lucero, Branch Chief (WO-350), at 202-912-7342.
 
 
Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
Mitchell Leverette                                                        Robert M. Williams
Acting, Assistant Director                                            Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Minerals and Realty Management
 
 
1 Attachment