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 of the energy planning standards review process is available for review. 

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

III.  Recommendations & Guidance

The Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI) has an interactive map viewer with links to GIS shapefiles for all of the Known and Possible constraint layers referenced in the standards.

Northwest Regional Planning Commission, with input from all 11 RPCs in the state, has created a best practices and resources guide for municipalities to use when undertaking enhanced energy planning.

IV.  Plans Submitted to the Department 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 #1 (2017)
  5. Town of Benson
  6. Town of Sudbury
  7. Windham Regional Commission
  8. Northeastern Vermont Development Association
  9. Lamoille County Planning Commission
  10. Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission
  11. Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission
  12. Rutland Regional Planning Commission
  13. Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission
  14. Addison County Regional Planning Commission
  15. Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission - #2 (2020)

A list of towns that have received determinations of energy compliance directly from their regional planning commissions as of January 2021, is available from the Vermont Association of Planning & Development Agencies (VAPDA).

V.  Plan Review Process

For plans submitted to the Department (only regional plans after July 1, 2018) for a determination of energy compliance, the following outlines the general process:

  • Regional Planning Commissions may request a pre-review of their draft plan.
  • Regional requests for determination of energy compliance should be submitted to the Department of Public Service through the 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 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 RPC.
  • RPCs may re-submit after correcting the reasons for denial noted in the memo.
  • If an RPC re-submits their plan, the Department will issue an approval or denial within 45 days.
  • RPCs may appeal a decision of the Department to the Natural Resources Board within 30 days.

Municipalities should submit plans directly to their RPC of jurisdiction. The same process as outlined above will generally apply, but municipalities should consult directly with their RPC to understand that RPC's specific processes supplemental to statutorily required actions and timelines.

VI.  Background on Standards Development

On August 30, 2016, the Department hosted a forum at the Vermont College of Fine Arts to gather input on the development of energy planning standards pursuant to Act 174.

The Department published a draft of the determination standards for comment on September 26, 2016 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, 2016, the Department held a public hearing on the draft standards at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, Vermont.

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. Note that after July 1, 2018, only regional plans may be submitted to the Department of Public Service for a determination; municipal plans must be submitted directly to the RPC of jurisdiction for their determinations. Questions may be sent to: