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Energy Development, Transmission, and Historic Preservation


The Obama administration has made energy independence for the United State a priority with a focus on facilitating and expanding production within our borders, as well as creating the infrastructure to move that energy to where it is needed. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) supports these efforts and is committed to advising the administration on energy policy development as it relates to historic preservation. ACHP has played an active role in intergovernmental groups addressing energy development and transmission issues, and has developed additional guidance to facilitate the review process established in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), when applied to energy and transmission projects. Learn More.

 The current focus on expanding the development and transmission of energy resources presents a variety of potential impacts to historic properties on and off federal lands.  These impacts include the direct effects of large-scale land development associated with solar energy development, as well as the introduction of visual intrusions imposed by the construction of wind turbines and transmission lines, on many types of historic properties including historic structures, cultural landscapes, and properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, as well as the introduction of visual intrusions imposed by the construction of wind turbines and transmission lines.

The ACHP works with federal agencies; applicants for federal assistance, permits, or licenses; SHPOs/THPOs; Indian tribes; and other consulting parties to address these challenges and develop guidance related to these issues, through the historic preservation review process established in Section 106 of the NHPA.  Federal agencies reviewing or approving these projects are diverse in their missions and the projects typically move on an accelerated time schedule.  While technologies vary (solar, wind, geo-thermal, bio-fuels, etc.), the challenges for the management of historic properties and completion of the Section 106 process are largely consistent across projects. They include project and compliance process timing, consideration of alternatives for project location and implementation, consultation with Indian tribes and other interested parties, and assessment of impacts on natural and cultural landscapes. 

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ACHP Resources for Energy Projects

This handout is a one-page summary of the kinds of information and expertise the ACHP has to offer for those involved in energy projects. It lists where on our web site to find guidance, such as when a wind farm triggers Section 106; information on consulting with tribes, including Limitations on the Delegation of Authority by Federal Agencies to Initiate Tribal Consultation; general 106 guidance, such as what constitutes reasonable and good faith identification; and an overview of the training the ACHP offers. Learn more.

Applicant Toolkit for those proposing energy and transmission projects on federal land

CEQ and ACHP’s Handbook on Integrating NEPA and NHPA

Federal Oversight and Assistance for Shale Gas Development and Section 106

What About a Wind Farm Project Triggers Section 106?

Summary of ACHP’s Cape Wind Recommendations

Memorandum of Understanding regarding Coordination in Federal Agency Review of Electric Transmission Facilities on Federal Land

Gateway West Transmission Line

Transmission Lines in the West

BLM’s Best Management Practices for Reducing Visual Impacts of Renewable Energy Facilities on BLM Managed Lands

Limitations on the Delegation of Authority by Federal Agencies to Initiate Tribal Consultation
Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act

More ACHP Resources regarding Working with Section 106

Resources from ACHP’s Office of Native American Affairs

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ACHP Involvement in Energy Initiatives

Executive Order 13604: Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects

On March 22, 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order 13604 entitled “Improving Performance of Federal Permitting and Review of Infrastructure Projects” which directed federal agencies to improve the permitting and review process for infrastructure projects throughout the country. This EO also established a Steering Committee of twelve agencies, including the ACHP and the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security; as well as the Environmental Protection Agency; the Department of the Army; and such other agencies or offices as the Chief Performance Officer (CPO) of the Office of Management and Budget may invite to participate.

Subsequently in May and June 2013, the President issued two Presidential Memoranda (PMs) encouraging the development of innovative processes and tools to improve environmental outcomes and develop more targeted and relevant environmental reviews for infrastructure and transmission projects.  In addition, the PMs encouraged more opportunities for public input and improvement in collaboration with State, local, and tribal governments. These PMs carry the commitments of EO 13604 one step further by requiring federal agencies to apply improved procedures to all infrastructure projects, and further, charge the Infrastructure Steering Committee to modernize federal infrastructure review and permitting regulations, policies, and procedures to meet the President’s goal of reducing permitting timelines while improving environmental and community outcomes. Through an interagency process, the Steering Committee is preparing a plan (known as the 120-Day Plan) to outline a number of proposed priority actions which will make progress toward achieving the goals of the Presidential Memorandum, as well as an implementation plan for each. In addition to and in coordination with its efforts as a Steering Committee member, the ACHP is pursuing agency-specific actions it might take, including the development of training and guidance, to work towards the President’s goals.

The ACHP has already made significant progress in establishing efficiencies and improving the effectiveness of the Section 106 review process consistent with the goals of the EO and the PMS. These efforts include the completion of a joint handbook with the Council on Environmental Quality on NEPA and Section 106, development of a “toolkit” that provides helpful tips and advice for applicants navigating the Section 106 process to make better informed decisions to improve outcomes in the review process and avoid unnecessary delays, as well as the development of Section 106 Guidance on Agreement Documents that is scheduled for completion in early 2014. Efforts are also underway to provide further information on the use of electronic media to improve the efficiency and transparency of the Section 106 process.

Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission

ACHP is an active participant in the Interagency Rapid Response Team for Transmission (RRTT). In addition, ACHP is actively participating in the Section 106 consultations regarding many of the transmission line projects prioritized and monitored by the RRTT. For more information about project-specific Section 106 concerns, please contact the staff assigned to the lead agency for the project.

ACHP works with BOEM, SHPOs and Tribes on development of wind energy off the Atlantic coast

To help implement the Administration’s “Smart from the Start” energy initiative, the ACHP is a consulting party in the development of Programmatic Agreements(PAs) to guide development of wind farms in federal waters off of the east coast.  PAs for the New England and mid-Atlantic regions have been executed, and one for energy development off of the coasts of the south Atlantic states is currently being developed.

Each state has identified wind energy areas where winds are constant and predictable, and not in the shipping lanes, migratory bird or aircraft routes, or in the way of Navy exercises. BOEM has identified numerous actions it must take that qualify as undertakings subject to review under Section 106. These are carried out pursuant to a staged, sequential, decision-making plan set out in BOEM’s renewable energy regulations (30 CFR Part 585).  For this reason, the PAs cover only the first two kinds of decisions/undertakings, the issuance of a lease and the approval of the Site Assessment Plan.  The approval of these plans grants the lessee the exclusive right to submit detailed plans for a wind farm to BOEM for approval. The installation and operation of the actual wind farms will be subject to a second round of Section 106 review.

The Area of Potential Effect (APE) for this first round of studies includes the seabed, limited viewshed (for the buoys and temporary assessment towers) and any staging areas on land to support them. Because these are preliminary activities, no permanent seabed-disturbing activities will take place, and no undersea cables will be laid. BOEM determined that these actions, while small in scale, still had the potential to affect historic properties, and developed these PAs to facilities compliance with Section 106. 

Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium--ACHP enters into Memorandum of Understanding to streamline environmental review of proposed new offshore wind farms

The ACHP has joined the Council on Environmental Quality, the Departments of Energy and Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, EPA, FWS, the FAA, and NOAA and the states Of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enhance and streamline environmental review of offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes. Estimates of potential available offshore wind power are approximately 700 gigawatts, which is a substantial portion of the country’s total gross offshore wind resource.  

In the case of the Great Lakes, the lake bottomlands are owned by each State, while the water itself is “owned” by the federal government. For this reason, both Federal and State regulatory authorities apply, making inter-and intra-state and federal coordination all the more essential to the viability of offshore wind development.

This MOU will provide for a greater degree of predictability, transparency, and significantly less duplication in review of environmental documents in the approval process, which should reduce significantly the long lead times (up to 10 years) between initial conception and actual power generation. Reducing this approval period, even by a year, would generate cost savings, increase accessibility to renewable energy and jumpstart job creation.

Energy and Historic Preservation Workgroup

In December 2009, the ACHP membership committed to convening a working group to promote collaboration and coordination among federal agencies and stakeholders to ensure that historic preservation values were considered efficiently in project planning and implementation. Coming out of the joint ACHP-NATHPO Tribal Summit held in California in January 2011,, the ACHP and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) established the Energy and Historic Preservation Workgroup to focus on the cultural resource challenges of energy projects and transmission in the west. The Workgroup addressed a number of issues related to cultural resource protection that arose in the large-scale energy development and transmission projects proposed on BLM lands. While these projects were managed through the regular Section 106 process, the Workgroup addressed common issues that emerged from the individual reviews, identified topics where additional education and awareness would benefit stakeholders, and compiled “lessons learned” to guide future energy development projects in the region and elsewhere.  While the workgroup is currently inactive examples of its accomplishments include:

  • ACHP and Council on Environmental Quality’s NEPA and NHPA: A Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106

  • ACHP’s Applicant Toolkit

  • Training and outreach within BLM

    • ACHP 106 training for BLM cultural staff in CA and UT

    • BLM and ACHP training for the BLM’s Preservation Board on cultural landscapes

    • BLM and ACHP conference calls on Lessons Learned

    • BLM and ACHP training for Project Managers and Renewable Energy Coordination Office Workshop

    • BLM and ACHP training for BLM’s Right of Way Division

  • BLM internal guidance on pre-application meetings, tribal consultation policy, 106 for transmission projects

  • ACHP training and outreach to industry through a webinar designed for the Edison Electric Institute and presentations at solar, wind, and transmission conferences

  • BLM and ACHP created draft best practices for landscapes in Section 106 compliance for energy and transmission projects

Palm Springs Renewable Energy Tribal Summit

The ACHP and the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO) hosted a Tribal Summit on Renewable Energy on January 11-13, 2011 in Palm Springs, California. Recognizing that renewable energy and its potential effects on historic properties is an area of concern to Indian tribes, the summit brought together over 150 tribal representatives and officials from agencies involved with energy development to share information and discuss local and national implications. The summit included an overview of proposed federal renewable energy projects and highlighted issues of tribal concern related to renewable energy development. Dialogue on formulating next steps resulted in a set of recommendations shared broadly with stakeholders. Learn more.

One outgrowth of the recommendations from the Renewable Energy Tribal Summit is the ACHP’s Traditional Cultural Landscapes Plan. Among other products, this initiative has led to the development of questions and answers on the role of Native American traditional cultural landscapes in the Section 106 process.

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106 Success Stories

The Section 106 process can breed much success with projects large and small. Consultation is a hallmark of the process. Read the Section 106 Success Stories below (check back because we’re adding more!) and learn how to nominate a worthy case for a spotlight story.


Case Digests - Energy Projects

For many years the ACHP published a Case Digest, a quarterly publication that provided an overview of select Section 106 cases in which the ACHP was involved. The cases below are examples of various types of energy and transmission projects and address the challenges they pose. Follow this link to find 106 cases involving energy.

  • Photovoltaic System on Roof of Ballaja Building, Spring 2012

  • Transmission Lines in the West, Spring 2012

  • Atlantic Wind Energy Initiative, Spring 2012

  • Renewable Energy Park Project at Ewa Field, Winter 2012

  • Via Verde Natural Gas Pipeline, Winter 2012

  • Keystone Pipeline, Fall 2007 and Spring 2011

  • Solar Energy Draft PA and PEIS, Summer 2009 and Spring 2011

  • White Mountain Wind Energy, Summer 2011

  • Imperial Valley Solar, Fall 2010

  • West Tavaputs Full Field Gas and Oil Development, Spring 2009 and Winter 2010

  • Nantucket Sound Wind Farm Application, Summer 2009 and Winter 2010

  • Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, Spring 2009

  • Lake Powell Power and Water Systems, Fall 2009

  • Medicine Lake Highlands Geothermal Development, Winter 2008

  • Glen Canyon Dam Project, Spring 2008

  • Permian Basin MOA for Oil and Gas Development, Summer 2008

  • Permits for Exploratory Drilling on Mount Taylor, Summer 2008

  • Columbia River Power System, Winter 2007

  • Custer National Forest Oil and Gas Leasing, Spring 2007

  • Overland Pass Pipeline, Fall 2007

  • Coal and Wind Electric Generation Facility at Great Falls/Cascade County, Summer 2006


Updated January 6, 2014

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