On June 23, 2023, the Oregon Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 3179, which changes the definition of energy facilities subject to mandatory Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) jurisdiction.  Signed by Oregon’s Governor on July 18, 2023, HB 3179 will go into effect January 1, 2024.  HB 3179 will provide more flexibility for certain solar facilities by allowing developers to either opt in to EFSC review or proceed with local land use permitting.  These changes go beyond the expanded opportunities for county permitting that the Oregon Legislature approved in House Bill 2329 (2019)

Changes.  HB 3179 changes the definition of “renewable energy facilities” that may be permitted at the county level, raising the mandatory EFSC jurisdictional thresholds.  The new thresholds represent a significant increase from the prior mandatory EFSC jurisdictional thresholds for solar facilities established under HB 2329 in 2019.  As shown in the table below, the increased acreage thresholds eliminate mandatory EFSC jurisdiction over a range of facilities.  This change is particularly pronounced with respect to facilities located on non-high-value farmland.

Changes in Jurisdictional Acreage Thresholds

Solar Facilities Located on …Current Jurisdictional AcreageHB 3179 (2023) Jurisdictional Acreage
High-Value Farmland as defined in ORS 195.300160240
Predominantly Cultivated;  Soil Classes I to IV1,2802,560
Any Other Land1,9203,840

Whether to Pivot to Local Review.  Although developers will have the option to permit much larger solar facilities through county review under HB 3179, developers can still opt in to EFSC review for facilities that are below the mandatory jurisdictional thresholds.  County review is typically less expensive and time-consuming, but there can be distinct advantages to EFSC review depending on the proposed project.  For example, local jurisdictions require applicants to provide an alternatives analysis to support issuance of a Statewide Planning Goal 3 Exception, but EFSC does not require such an analysis.  Because there are advantages and disadvantages to each pathway, developers should carefully weigh the local and EFSC options when developing a permitting strategy. 

If you have specific questions about how the proposed change may impact your proposed project(s) or would like assistance weighing available permitting pathways, please do not hesitate to contact us.