Post-Certification FAQs

What is this page all about?

This guide is designed to provide helpful information to a party wishing to know more about issues that arise once a power plant is certified. After certification, a power plant owner may request to modify the design, operation, or performance requirements of its certified project. Additionally, certification may be revoked or a fine imposed when a plant is found to be non-compliant by failing to meet all terms of approval or by violating laws, regulations, ordinances, or conditions. A complaint of non-compliance may be issued by the public or by the Commission.

This guide is provided for information only and is not intended to provide legal advice or to address every situation that may arise in the post-certification process. Please seek the advice of a qualified attorney for answers to specific legal questions. The information in this guide is current through the date of publication, October 2005.

What happens when a power plant applicant wants to modify a project that has already been approved?

Once a final decision has been made in the certification process for approval of a power plant project, an applicant must file a petition with the Energy Commission for any modification it proposes to the initial project design, operation or performance requirements.

What must be included in this petition?

The applicant must indicate:

  • The proposed modifications and its necessity.
  • If the modification is based on information that was known to petitioner at time of certification proceeding, an explanation as to why issue wasn't raised at the time of application.
  • If modification is based on new information, an explanation as to why the change should be permitted if it changes or undermines the assumptions upon which was the basis of the original decision.
  • A listing of any environmental impacts and proposed measures to mitigate them.
  • The modification's impact on the facility's compliance with laws, ordinance and regulations.
  • A listing of possible impacts to the public and nearby property owners.

When will the Energy Commission review the petition?

Within 30 days after application, Commission staff will determine the extent of the proposed modifications.

What factors will the Commission assess when making a determination of whether the modification is significant?

A modification is not considered significant and the modification can be made without further Commission approval when the Commission finds that:

  • The modification will have no significant effect on the environment;
  • The change would not affect a condition adopted by the Commission in the final decision;
  • The changes will not affect a plant's compliance with laws, ordinances, regulations, or standards; and
  • There are no objections to staff's determination that the project change is insignificant.

What happens if staff determines that a modification will be a significant project change?

Any modification to a project design, operation or performance requirement that requires changes to any components of its conditions of certification are processed as an amendment. The decision must then be approved by the full Commission at a noticed business meeting. At the business meeting, the Commission will issue an order approving, rejecting, or modifying the petition. If further consideration is needed, the Commission may decide to assign the matter for further hearing before the full Commission or an assigned committee or hearing officer.

How can a member of the public become involved in the modification request?

  • A determination on the modification will be mailed to every person on the post-certification list server and mailing list. To be included in the mailing list and receive notices of a particular siting case, enter an e-mail address at: www.energy.ca.gov/listservers/ or contact the Public Adviser's Office.
  • Any person may file an objection to staff's decision within 14 days of service.
  • If it is an objection to an insignificant project change decision, and staff agrees with the objection, the modification will be re-analyzed and processed using the normal amendment process and procedures.

Will there be a public information hearing?

If the application involves a major amendment, the Committee may hold a public information meeting, workshop, or site visit near the area of the project. Notice will be sent at least 10 days prior to the workshop date to all listed on the compliance project mailing list and notice will be placed on the Commission's website.

In what situations will the Commission amend or revoke the certification of a power facility?

The Commission may amend or revoke the certification of a power facility for the following reasons:

  • Any material false statement made in the application
  • Any failure to comply with the terms or conditions of approval
  • A violation of any regulation or order issued by the Commission.

When are fines imposed?

Fines may be imposed in situations where the Commission determines that:

  • A material false statement was made in the initial application for the project
  • When there was a failure to comply with the terms or conditions of the project's approval.

In such cases, a complaint will be issued by the executive director of the Commission and it will specify the alleged act or failure to act for which the civil penalty will be imposed. A hearing will be conducted within 60 days of service unless the complainant waives the right.

How will the Commission determine the amount of the fine or civil penalty?

The Commission may impose a civil penalty up to $75,000 for such violations. The penalty may be increased up to $1500 per day for each additional day the violation persists not to exceed $50,000.

In determining the amount of penalty to impose, the Commission will weigh several factors including:

  • the nature, circumstance, extent, and gravity of the violation
  • whether the violation can be resolved
  • the cost to the state in pursuing the enforcement action
  • the violator's ability to pay and continue business
  • any voluntary efforts undertaken by the violator to resolve the issue
  • the degree of culpability, including any past history of violations

Any moneys recovered will be deposited into the General Fund.

After a project has been certified by the Commission, when can it be found "non-compliant"?

For more information about which laws, ordinances, regulations or conditions may apply, go to www.energy.ca.gov/public_adviser/lors_faq.html.

Who may file a complaint alleging non-compliance and where do I file a complaint?

Any person may file a complaint.

A claimant must file a complaint with the Energy Commission's Docket Unit and the designated compliance project manager for the specific project.

The Docket Unit is located at:

California Energy Commission
1516 Ninth Street, MS 4
Sacramento, CA 95814
Telephone: (916) 654-5076
Email: docket@energy.ca.gov

What must the complaint include?

  • Name, address, and telephone number of the person filling out the complaint.
  • Name, address, and telephone number of the person owning, operating or proposing to own the project which is the subject of complaint.
  • Statement of facts upon which the complaint is based.
  • Statement indicating which statute, regulation, order, decision or condition of certification upon which the complaint is based.
  • The action claimant requests the Commission take to resolve the issue, and a listing of the authority under which Commission may take the action, if known.
  • A declaration under penalty of perjury attesting to the truth and accuracy of the statement of facts upon which complaint is based.

What happens after the complaint is filed?

Within 30 days of receipt of the complaint, the Commission staff will file a staff report detailing the non-compliance as well as any steps taken to remedy the noncompliance.

  • This report will be provided to the person filling out complaint, the project developer, and any other interested parties.
  • Written comments on the complaint or staff report will be accepted up to 14 days after issuance of the staff report.

Within 30 days after issuance of the staff report the committee will take one of the following actions:

  • Dismiss the complaint upon determination of insufficiency of complaint or lack of merit
  • Issue a written decision presenting its findings and conclusions
  • Conduct hearings to investigate further.

What if I am not satisfied with the decision?

A claimant or project owner may appeal to the full Commission within 14 days after issuance of its decision.

What Laws cover Post-Certification Modifications, Non-Compliance, and Complaints?

  • Cal. Admin. Code tit. 20, s 1769 for Post-Certification Amendments and Changes.
  • Cal. Pub. Res. Code 25534, 25534.1, 25534.2 for Amendment or Revocation of Certification and Civil Penalties.
  • Cal. Admin. Code tit. 20, s 1237 for Post-certification Complaints.

NOTICE: Distributed by the Public Adviser's Office. This is for informational purposes only. It is designed to assist you in understanding the process. It is, therefore, general in nature and does not discuss all exceptions and variations.