Virginia Proposes to Amend the Permit by Rule Regulations for Small Solar Projects

Energy & Infrastructure Alert | June.12.2019

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) is seeking public comment on whether it should amend the current state regulations governing permits by rule for small solar projects.[1] The notice is an invitation to comment on possible future amendments to the program and does not outline specific proposed changes. It does, however, identify topics on which comments are being solicited.

In 2012, VDEQ adopted a regulation, called "Permit by Rule" (PBR), which established requirements for small solar projects that would facilitate issuance of permits required to develop such projects. The PBR allows solar projects of 150 MW or less to receive approval from the VDEQ to construct and operate the solar project through an expedited permitting process, rather than obtaining approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission.[2] Projects over 5 MW or covering more than ten acres are required to apply for approval from VDEQ, based on compliance with the project requirements imposed by the PBR. In that process, VDEQ reviews, among other things, environmental impacts and compliance with land use and environmental requirements.

The current notice indicates VDEQ is considering amending the PBR program but does not propose specific amendments. Instead, VDEQ has identified topics for possible public comment, including the possibility of amending the PBR program to clarify certain definitions, timeframes for data submittals and recordkeeping activities, requirements for natural and cultural resource studies, public participation procedures and the fee structure that funds the program. As part of a statewide mandate to analyze impacts upon small business, VDEQ is also seeking comment on whether the regulation (i) is necessary for the protection of public health, safety and welfare or for the economical performance of important governmental functions; (ii) minimizes the economic impact on small businesses; (iii) is designed to achieve its intended objective in the most efficient, cost-effective manner; (iv) is clearly written and easily understandable; (v) overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with federal or state law or regulation; and (vi) is impacted by changes in technology, economic conditions or other factors in the area affected by the regulation since the previous review.

Public comments responding to VDEQ's notice are due on June 26, 2019, and may be filed on Virginia's Regulatory Town Hall website.[3] Once the public comment period ends, VDEQ plans to form a committee to review and propose changes to the PBR regulations, at which time additional comments are likely to be solicited.

[1] VDEQ, 2019 Amendments Solar PBR,

[2] 9VAC15-60.

[3] Virginia Regulatory Town Hall, Small Solar Renewable Energy Projects Permit Regulation,