Act 174 Recommendations and Determination Standards

I.  Overview

Act 174 of 2016 establishes a new set of municipal and regional energy planning standards, which if met allow those plans to carry greater weight - substantial deference - in the Section 248 siting process for energy generation. Meeting the standards is entirely voluntary; if regions and municipalities do not wish to update their plans, they will continue to receive due consideration in the Section 248 process. A descriptive flow chart is available here.

The final standards for regional plans and muncipal plans are below. Along with the standards, the Department is also publishing a set of recommendations from the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP), tailored to local and regional action, with which municipal or regional plans are expected to be consistent. The  2016 CEP, which was published prior to Act 174, was not crafted with this use in mind. As a result, certain general recommendations that apply to all levels of government, and to the public as a whole, were removed. In order to address this mismatch, these standards are accompanied by this modified set of CEP recommendations, which are expected to be expanded upon in the guidance discussed below.

II.  Standards

Overview document (please read first)
The detailed standards for regional plans, in checklist form with instructions and guidance, are available here. A form-fillable version that can be completed and submitted to the Department is available here. An abridged version containing the standards alone (with no narrative) is available here

The detailed standards for municipal  plans, in checklist form with instructions and guidance, are available here. A form-fillable version that can be completed and submitted to the Department or regional planning commission is available here. An abridged version containing the standards alone  (with no narrative) is available here.

III.  Recommendations & Guidance

The recommendations from the 2016 CEP that are relevant to regions and municipalities are available here. In addition, the Department has created guidance documents and various workbook aids for regions and municipalities, available below.

The Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI) has created this "Act 174 Portal" with links to GIS shapefiles for all of the Known and Possible constraint layers referenced in the standards.

IV.  Plans Submitted for a Determination of Energy Compliance

  1. Bennington County Regional Commission
  2. Town of New Haven
  3. Northwest Regional Planning Commission
  4. Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission

V.  Plan Review Process

For plans submitted to the Department for a determination of energy compliance, the following outlines the general process:

  • Regional Planning Commissions and Municipalities coming directly to the Department may request a pre-review of their draft plan.
  • Regional or municipal plans and requests for determination of energy compliance should be submitted to the Department of Public Service through the PSD.PlanningStandards@vermont.gov e-mail address. Please submit all required elements (i.e. checklist, plan, and any supporting documentation such as memo/planning commission report discussed in "Plan Adoption Requirement" section of standards checklist).
  • The Department will work with the Town or RPC to schedule a public hearing that will be notified 15 days in advance.
  • The Department will issue an approval or denial within the two-month review period. If a negative determination is issued, a memo stating the reasons for denial will be provided to the municipality or RPC.
  • Municipalities or RPCs may re-submit after correcting the reasons for denial noted in the memo.
  • If a municipality or RPC re-submits their plan, the Department will issue an approval or denial within 45 days.
  • Municipalities or RPCs may appeal a decision of the Department to the Natural Resources Board within 30 days.

VI.  Background on Standards Development

The DPS published a draft of the determination standards for comment on September 26 following an extensive period of stakeholder and public input throughout the summer, including topic-specific roundtables, a cross-cutting forum, and a survey.  On October 11, DPS held a public hearing on the draft standards.

Comments received on the draft standards are available here.

Public Meetings

October 11 Public Hearing on the Draft Standards

The Department of Public Service held a public hearing on the draft determination standards on October 11, 2016 at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph.
The press release for the event is available here.
The presentation from the event is available here.
The transcript from the hearing is available here.

Act 174 Energy Planning Standards Forum

The Department of Public Service hosted a forum on August 30 to gather input on the development of energy planning standards pursuant to Act 174 on August 30 at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
The press release for the event is available here.
The presentation from the event is available here.

VII.  Submitting a Plan for a Determination of Energy Compliance

Please see the instructions contained in the detailed standards for either regions or municipalities, above. Questions may be sent to: PSD.PlanningStandards@vermont.gov.