A Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is required for the construction, connection, operation and/or maintenance of electric transmission lines that cross the U.S. international borders with Canada and Mexico.
Executive Order 12038 states that, before a Presidential permit may be issued, the action must be found to be consistent with the public interest. The two criteria used by DOE to determine if a proposed project is consistent with the public interest are:

  1. Environmental Impact – The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires that Federal agencies give due consideration to the environmental consequences of their actions. Pursuant to NEPA, DOE must determine the environmental impacts associated with issuing or denying a Presidential permit. DOE published NEPA implementing procedures on April 24, 1992 (57 FR 15122). These rules, codified at 10 CFR 1021, specifically delineate the steps of the NEPA process.
  2. Impact on Electric Reliability – DOE considers the effect that the proposed project would have on the operating reliability of the U.S. electric power supply system; i.e., the ability of the existing generation and transmission system to remain within acceptable voltage, loading and stability limits during normal and emergency conditions. The standards DOE applies include the standards of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) and the standards of the member regional councils that are formulated by the utilities themselves.

After compliance with NEPA and satisfaction of the electric reliability criteria, E.O. 12038 requires DOE to obtain concurrence from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense before a permit may be issued.

The time required to process an application for a Presidential permit is usually determined by the extent of the environmental analysis. A decision on a permit may be reached within six months if it is determined that the issuance of a permit is not a major federal action significantly affecting the environment and that an environmental assessment is the appropriate level of review for NEPA compliance. However, if it is determined that an Environmental Impact Statement would be required to adequately address the full environmental consequences of the proposed action, the time for processing the permit application could take 18 months or longer.

For more information on Presidential Permits, please see the Department of Energy’s website.