The Siting, Transmission, and Environmental Protection Division reviews the AFC to determine if it contains the required information to begin the certification process. The division staff submits its recommendation to the commissioners, who appoint a committee of two commissioners to start the formal certification process.
The process begins by focusing on the engineering design and possible environmental impacts. Staff conducts public outreach to encourage awareness of the proposed project and obtain necessary technical information. Staff holds public workshops so intervenors, agency representatives, and members of the public can meet with Energy Commission staff and the applicant to discuss, clarify, and negotiate pertinent issues.
The initial technical evaluation of the project is the preliminary staff assessment (PSA). It is posted online and available for a 30-day public comment period. The staff will publish a final staff assessment (FSA), which contains an analysis of the project, proposed mitigation, conditions of certification, and staff responses to public comments.
Once the FSA has been published, the committee holds a prehearing conference to assess the adequacy of available information, identify issues, and determine the positions of the parties. Based on information presented at the conference, the committee issues a hearing order to schedule formal evidentiary hearings.
At the evidentiary hearings, all formal parties may present sworn testimony, which is subject to cross-examination and questioning by the committee. Members of the public may offer oral or written comments at the hearings. Evidence submitted provides the basis for the committee's analysis and recommendations to the full Energy Commission.
Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision
After hearing evidence, the committee publishes its analysis and recommendations in the presiding member’s proposed decision (PMPD), which has a 30-day public comment period. Depending upon the extent of revisions necessary after considering comments, the committee may elect to publish a revised PMPD. If it does, there will be an additional 15-day public comment period.
At a public hearing, the full five-member Energy Commission will decide to accept, reject, or modify the committee's recommendations.
Role of the Parties
Throughout the licensing process, members of the committee, and ultimately the full Commission, serve as decision-makers. Other parties, including the applicant, Energy Commission staff, and formal intervenors, function independently with equal legal status.
Ex Parte Rule
An ex parte rule prohibits parties from communicating on substantive matters with the decision-makers, their staffs, or the assigned hearing officer unless these communications are on the public record.