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Overview of Regulations and Processes for Wind Farm Permitting

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					             Overview of Regulations and Processes for Wind Farm Permitting
                        Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
                               Natural Diversity Section

                                Pertinent Regulations/Statutory Authority

                     PA Code: Title 58 Part II, Subpart B, Chapter 75 (and others):
                     www.pacode.com/secure/data/058/chapter75/chap75toc.html

                   Also: PA Code: Title 30 CS (Consolidated Statutes),§ 2102, 2305

                                    Description of Permitting Processes

Most habitat altering permits issued by DEP require that a Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Index (PNDI)
search be completed. While DEP issues the permits, the Department consults with the Pennsylvania Fish
and Boat Commission (PFBC) in all matters concerning potential conflicts with rare species of fish,
herptiles, and aquatic invertebrates for which PFBC has sole conservation and management responsibility as
mandated by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

PNDI searches are typically conducted by the entity applying for the permit in one of two ways. PNDI
searches can be directly performed by using the Environmental Review tool on the Pennsylvania Natural
Heritage Program website: http://www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us/. Many applicants, however, choose to
submit their threatened and endangered species reviews directly to PFBC’s Natural Diversity Section (NDS)
because PFBC has the most up-to-date rare species information that is collected by their own biologists and
via PFBC’s Scientific Collector’s Permit program, in which academic researchers, government biologists,
and environmental consultants participate.

A “hit” response on a PNDI search means that within the area of the project or within a pre-selected distance
from it, a rare species has been documented. The searcher or permit applicant is then directed to contact the
appropriate agency to have the potential hit or “conflict” resolved. If the agency concerned is PFBC, the
applicant is instructed to provide project information to the PFBC Natural Diversity Section (NDS) including
maps, a project narrative, photos, a copy of the PNDI search results and any other specific information that
may be available. The ensuing process is summarized in Figure 1 below. Once the project is received by
NDS, it undergoes a primary species impact review (SIR). NDS strives to complete primary SIRs within 30
days but, dependent on workload and project complexity, this may not always be feasible.

In the primary SIR process, a PFBC reviewer considers the location, species life history and project specifics
to determine if a conflict exists. If not, a clearance letter is issued to the applicant, which they will then
provide to DEP to continue with the permit process. If a potential conflict does exist, based on best
professional judgment, PFBC may ask for additional information, may leave the decision to proceed in the
hands of the applicant provided certain conditions are met, or may suggest specific project recommendations
such as seasonal work restrictions, buffers, etc. to protect the species from harm during construction
activities or for the long term.

In some cases, if warranted by the primary review of the project information, PFBC may also recommend a
targeted species habitat assessment survey (Phase 1 survey) or a target species presence/absence survey
(Phase 2 survey) of the project area to be performed by a PFBC recognized qualified surveyor. NDS has
developed and maintains lists of approved surveyors and has developed survey protocols and guidelines for a
number of species (all available on request or provided with review responses). Surveyor and protocol
guidelines must be adhered to because specialized techniques, personnel, and equipment are often needed to
effectively sample many of the cryptic species under PFBC jurisdiction. In addition, surveyors are required
to have Scientific Collector’s Permits, which are issued by PFBC NDS.

Upon receipt of survey information by NDS, the project will undergo a secondary SIR. Secondary and
tertiary reviews are more complex and, while PFBC still strives for 30-day turn-around times at this review
level, they often require significantly more time to be processed by NDS staff.

During the secondary SIR process, it may be determined that the project footprint or construction method
will likely have no impact on the species or that specific site recommendations need to be instituted to
prevent impacts. In the case of Phase 1 habitat assessment survey results, the project reviewer may determine
that there is sufficient evidence of target species habitat on the project site to warrant a Phase 2 survey. Other
outcomes, for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 surveys, could include the need for further discussion with the
applicant to develop a course of action to avoid or minimize adverse impacts. This may require field visits,
on-site meetings and additional correspondence. Mitigation may also be a part of these discussions and can
include purchase, easement, or deed restriction of lands for species conservation. Funding may be sought for
additional studies of the target species’ life history, distribution, or abundance.

In a relatively few cases, results of the secondary SIR may indicate that further survey work is needed.
Results from this additional survey work will undergo tertiary review with potential outcomes generally
similar to those of the secondary review process.

Figure 1. Summary of the PFBC environmental review process. Note: ETC = Endangered,
Threatened, Candidate (species)


             Project review requested                                             - project locality checked with species databases
              from project applicant                     Primary Review           - consult with developer (if needed)
                                                                                  - best professional judgment

                  No known ETC species                                                         If ETC species habitat disturbed,
                  in project vicinity (NK)                                                         then NDS will need more
                                                                                                 information to assess impacts
                    ETC species in area,
                    no impacts expected                                                       Potential Conflict with ETC species
                                                    Request ETC habitat survey                 - need more info to assess impacts
                 ETC species in area,
                                                                                                    Request ETC
           site-specific recommendations
                                                                                               presence/absence survey
                                                      Secondary Review

        ETC species habitat survey negative,      ETC presence/absence survey                  Additional information reviewed,
               no impacts expected                negative, no impacts expected                      no impacts expected
                                                 ETC presence/absence survey positive,
         ETC species habitat survey positive,       site-specific recommendations              Additional information reviewed,
          request presence/absence survey                                                      request presence/absence survey


                                                         Tertiary Review

                 ETC presence/absence survey negative,                        ETC presence/absence survey positive,
                         no impacts expected                                     site-specific recommendations

        * Depending on the complexity/magnitude of the project, and/or size and proximity of the population of ETC species, meetings
          and field views may be required at any point in the process, as well as iterations of changes to the original project plan.
                                      Contact


                           PA Fish and Boat Commission
                             Natural Diversity Section
                                450 Robinson Lane
                               Bellefonte, PA 16823
                                  814-359-5237



Some Species under PFBC Jurisdiction of Particular Concern as Related to Wind Farms


                   Timber Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus
                   Green Salamander, Aneides aeneus
                   Coal Skink, Eumeces anthracinus anthracinus
                   Northern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus
                   Numerous fish species
                   Numerous freshwater mussel species

				
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