UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
http://www.blm.gov
 
April 12, 2013
 
In Reply Refer To:
2800 (350) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 05/02/2013
Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-118 
Expires:  09/30/2014
 
To:                   All Field Office Officials
 
From:               Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management
 
Subject:            Revised Implementation Guidance for the Interagency Transmission Memorandum of Understanding                 
 
Program Area:  Rights-of-Way Management.
 
Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides revised 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. The policy guidance in this IM replaces guidance provided in IM 2010-169 (Implementation Guidance for the Interagency Transmission Memorandum of Understanding, dated July 28, 2010).
 
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 significant electricity transmission lines that cross federally managed lands in the United States (see Weblinks section of this policy).  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.
 
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 (USFS) 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 and timeliness in siting and permitting of QPs through better coordination with the applicant and other Federal agencies.  This IM reinforces the continued importance of the 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 USFS; for working with other Participating Agencies as cooperating agencies; and other relevant information.
 
The BLM will process right-of-way (ROW) applications for QPs (including qualifying amendments) using the procedures 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 substantive delays to the DOE in writing.  The DOE will approve any substantive changes to the project schedule and notify the BLM or consult with the BLM to resolve schedule concerns.  The DOE public website eTrans Federal Permitting Transmission Tracking System (eTrans) (www.doe-etrans.us), serves as a central source of high-voltage transmission project information as identified in the MOU.  The website provides a list of QPs and other high voltage transmission projects, lead agencies, general project schedules, links to agency websites for more specific information and filing requirements, and other pertinent project 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, is the POC for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and for the BLM.  As identified below, the ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) will assist the Assistant Director 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 Authorized Officer (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 project-specific agreements such as MOUs and/or Project Charters. BLM QPs are high priorities for the BLM and the DOI; state and field office managers will assign sufficient 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 will meet with project proponents and other affected agencies and tribes in accordance with current policy regarding pre-application meetings for high-voltage transmission projects prior to an application being accepted. To ensure applicants submit thorough applications, the BLM managers and staff will refer applicants to agency websites for detailed information (see Weblinks section of this policy).
 
When a BLM office is notified of a potential QP, the responsible BLM manager with the largest land management interest based on mileage will notify affected agencies and tribes in a timely manner and invite all parties to participate in a pre-application meeting to be held in person, by audio, or via 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 the Legacy Rehost 2000 (LR2000) system or entered in eTrans.  Copies of the response will be provided to other affected BLM offices and agencies. 
 
The responsible BLM manager will verify that the initial application contains the required information identified in the regulations at 43 CFR 2804.12 and as required by current BLM policy.  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, (4) enter the project in eTrans, and (5) 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 will be processed as a Category 6 (major category) application, and will follow the procedures in 43 CFR 2804.19 and 43 CFR 2804.25. 

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, if applicable, as well as the ROW Branch Chief (WO-350).  The ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) will immediately notify the DOE and the WO POCs for the other affected Participating Agencies.  

Where the BLM is the lead agency, the AO will consult with the ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) regarding the selection of an experienced project manager (PM). In some cases a National PM may be assigned in accordance with current policy.
  
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 ROW Branch Chief (WO-350).  The ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) will consult with the applicable POCs from the Participating Agencies to determine the appropriate MOU provisions that will apply.  
 
Lead Agency Recommendation:  Immediately after a BLM office receives an initial application, the SD will coordinate with other affected SDs and Participating Agencies to determine a recommended lead agency.  If there is no agreement among the agencies, the Assistant Director will consult with affected Participating Agency POCs to determine a recommended lead agency. When the BLM is the recommended lead agency, the SD will submit the recommendation to the ROW 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 ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) 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 Participating Agency POCs will consult with each other and the DOE.  The 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 and the project involves more than one BLM state, the Director or Assistant Director (AD-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 Assistant Director (AD-300) will delegate the lead state and AO.  The lead state/AO delegation will be made within 7 calendar days subsequent to lead agency designation by the 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, the National Operations Center requires 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 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 amended as detailed project information becomes available. 
 
Project Manager/Project Team:  Where the BLM is the lead agency, the AO will select a PM and a project team within 30 calendar days following the receipt of cost recovery funds.   The AO will consult with the ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) regarding the selection of an experienced project manager (PM). In some cases a National PM may be assigned in accordance with current policy.
 
Coordination with the USFS under Service First (MOU Section VI.)

Many of the QPs in the West will involve both BLM and USFS 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/USFS final decisions and issue the ROW grant (BLM lands) and special use authorization (USFS National Forest Lands) except the AO may not approve planning decisions for the other agency (e.g. USFS may not approve BLM land use plan amendments and BLM may not approve USFS forest plan amendments). 

The AO will manage and supervise the work of the BLM and USFS 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. 

Single Project Manager (MOU Section VI.):  The AO is responsible for selecting an experienced 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 in eTrans.  Roles and responsibilities of the PM will be clearly identified in a project-specific MOU and/or project charter.
 
Single Project Team (MOU Section VI.):  The AO, working with the PM, will select a project team consisting of individuals from the BLM and USFS 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.  
 
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, the ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) 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 DOE (including National Renewable Energy Laboratory or Argonne National Laboratory) 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.
 
LR2000 and eTrans Data Entry
The lead BLM office within the lead state will serialize the accepted application in LR2000 and establish the lead case file within 5 working days of acceptance of an application with information sufficient to complete this task or the BLM lead state being determined.  The lead BLM office will also be responsible for entering the project in eTrans and ensuring the data is up-to-date. 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. All data entry in LR2000 and eTrans must meet the data standards outlined in IM 2012-168 (LR2000 Data Standards and eTrans Data Entry for High Voltage Transmission Line Rights-of-Way Cases).
 
Project Management Tools (For BLM Use)
BLM state offices, field offices and/or PMs may contact the ROW Branch Chief (WO-350) to request current templates and examples of project management tools. Project management tools that should be utilized (as applicable) on Qualifying Projects include, but are not limited to, MOUs (e.g. cooperating agency MOU, project-specific MOU), project charter and cost recovery agreement.
 
MOU Evaluation and Monitoring (MOU Section IX.)
For QPs where the BLM is the lead agency, the Assistant Director (AD-300) will schedule meetings with the appropriate agency POCs, as needed, to evaluate the progress of QPs, and provide direction on unresolved issues.
 
Weblinks
For further information please consult the following websites: 
 
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  
  • www.blm.gov/style/medialib/blm/wo/Information_Resources_Management/policy/im_attachments/2010.Par.65839.File.dat/IM2010-169_att1.pdf 
Service First:  Background information, templates, tools, and contacts. 
  • www.fs.fed.us/servicefirst/authority-legislation.shtml  
BLM Rights-of-Way Program 
  • www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/cost_recovery_regulations.html  
BLM Electric Transmission Facilities & Energy Corridors 
  • www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/transmission.html 
Settlement Agreement for Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of Interior, et al., No. 3:09-cv-03048-JW (N.D. Cal.) 
  • www.corridoreis.anl.gov/documents/docs/Settlement_Agreement_Package.pdf 
West-wide Energy Corridor FPEIS and Record of Decision 
  • www.corridoreis.anl.gov    
DOE: eTrans Federal Permitting Transmission Tracking System. 
  • www.doe-etrans.us
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.  The BLM implemented the provisions of the MOU though guidance in IM 2010-169 (Implementation Guidance for the Interagency Transmission Memorandum of Understanding) issued in July of 2010.
 
On July 7, 2009, multiple parties (the Plaintiffs) filed a Complaint in District Court (Northern District of California). The Plaintiffs challenged the BLM’s record of decision which amended 92 land use plans and designated approximately 5,000 miles of energy corridors pursuant to Section 368 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Plaintiffs raised a variety of challenges pursuant to the Energy Policy Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedures Act. On July 11, 2012, the Court dismissed the case pursuant to the settlement agreement for Wilderness Society, et al. v. United States Department of Interior, et al., No. 3:09-cv-03048-JW (N.D. Cal.) (see Weblinks section of this policy).
 
As part of the settlement agreement, the BLM committed to deleting the section entitled “Environmental Review and Energy Corridors,” from IM 2010-169, dated July 28, 2010. This IM fulfills the BLM’s commitment to complete the modification to IM 2010-169. In addition, the BLM has incorporated other minor modifications and updates into the revised policy.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  None. 

Coordination:   IM 2010-169 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 Kim Berns, Division Chief, Lands, Realty and Cadastral Survey, at kmberns@blm.gov, Lucas Lucero, ROW Branch Chief, at 202‑912‑7342 or llucero@blm.gov, or Beth Ransel, Electric Transmission and Energy Corridors Program Lead, at 202-912-7213 or bransel@blm.gov

           
Signed by:                                                       Authenticated by:
Michael Nedd                                                   Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                            Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Minerals and Realty Management