Expedited hydro licensing process proposed by FERC

7 February 2019

New hydropower projects at existing non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects in the US could have a licensing decision within two years under proposals put forward by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

FERC has proposed to expedite the issuance of original hydropower licenses for certain qualifying facilities as part of its continuing efforts to implement the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. It is intended to ensure a final licensing decision no later than two years after receipt of a completed application.

Prior to the release of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the end of January, FERC in November had invited federal and state agencies as well as Native American tribes to participate in an interagency task force to coordinate the regulatory processes associated with the proposal. Preliminary discussions took place in December.

To qualify as a facility at a non-powered dam for the purpose of the expedited licensing process, a project cannot already be licensed, nor can it be exempted from the licensing requirements in the Federal Power Act. It also must be associated with a non-powered dam and be constructed, operated and maintained for the generation of electric power. It must generate electricity by using withdrawals, diversions, releases or flows from the associated qualifying non-powered dam and cannot make any material changes to the storage, release or flow operations of the associated qualifying non-powered dam.

To qualify as a closed-loop pumped storage facility for the purpose of the expedited licensing process, a project should cause little or no change in existing surface and groundwater flows and uses and must not adversely affect threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

Comments on the NOPR are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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