(1) Prior to issuing a loan under ARM 17.85.111, the department shall review each application to determine if a categorical exclusion from environmental review, as defined in ARM 17.4.603, applies. A categorical exclusion may apply if the requirements of (3) through (5) are met. If the department determines that a categorical exclusion does not apply, the department shall conduct a review under ARM Title 17, chapter 4, subchapter 6, to determine if loan issuance may result in significant effects to the quality of the human environment.

(2) The proposed project or activity must comply with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements protecting the quality of resources such as air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and recreational opportunities.

(3) Except as provided in (4), the granting of a loan under this subchapter is categorically excluded from the requirement in Title 75, chapter 1, part 2, MCA, to conduct an environmental review if the loan is for any of the following projects:

(a) solar electricity/photovoltaic (solar/PV):

(i) an appropriately sized system or unit on an existing rooftop; or

(ii) a 60 kilowatt (kW) or less system installed on the ground;

(b) wind turbine - a system of 20 kilowatts (kW) or less;

(c) solar thermal - a system appropriately sized for residences or small non-residential buildings;

(d) solar thermal hot water - appropriately sized for residences or small non-residential buildings;

(e) geothermal - a closed loop ground source heat pump system, with a capacity of ten tons or less, that uses either a horizontal or vertical ground loop;

(f) biomass thermal - a system that:

(i) has a capacity of three million British thermal units (MMBTUs) or less per hour;

(ii) meets the standards set in 15-32-102, MCA; or

(iii) meets the standards adopted by the local air pollution control program having jurisdiction where the system is to be installed.

(4) A categorical exclusion may not be applied to the granting of a loan for a project under (3) if:

(a) the department has received information indicating that public controversy exists over the project's potential effects on the quality of the human environment; or

(b) the project might affect:

(i) a sensitive environmental or cultural area; or

(ii) an endangered or threatened species or critical habitat for that species.

(5) The department shall document its decision to apply a categorical exclusion by referencing the application, providing a brief description of the proposed action, describing how the action meets a criterion for a categorical exclusion in (1), and documenting that the project does not fall under a criterion in (4).

(6) The department may, to assist in planning or decision making, prepare an environmental assessment on a project that is categorically excluded under this rule.

History: 75-25-102, MCA; IMP, 75-25-102, MCA; NEW, 2003 MAR p. 233, Eff. 2/14/03; AMD, 2013 MAR p. 670, Eff. 4/26/13.