The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has assessed a $15 million civil penalty against Boyce Hydro Power LLC for numerous dam safety violations at three of the company’s hydroelectric projects in Michigan – the Secord, Smallwood and Sanford projects.
The violations followed significant flooding and a dam breach in May 2020 that resulted in substantial damage to the surrounding communities, including washed-out major roads, destruction of homes and the evacuation of 10,000 residents.
“Today’s decision sends a clear message to all licensees of FERC-jurisdictional hydroelectric projects: It is imperative that they comply with the safety requirements of their licenses,” FERC Chairman Rich Glick said. “Public safety is a top priority at these facilities, and we will do whatever we can to protect communities.”
In its decision, FERC said that, while it is assessing the $15 million penalty, it does not intend payment of the penalty to imperil the recovery of damages by victims of the dam breaches and takes notice that Boyce Hydro’s liquidation plan ensures that the victims’ recovery will come before any recovery of the penalty.
This order follows a Dec. 9, 2020, Order to Show Cause to Boyce Hydro regarding its apparent violation of numerous FERC staff orders and license provisions addressing safety at the Secord, Smallwood and Sanford projects. In the Order to Show Cause, the Commission directed Boyce Hydro to provide an answer within 30 days as to why FERC should not assess a $15 million civil penalty.
FERC found that Boyce Hydro’s response failed to respond to any of the factual allegations in the Order to Show Cause and therefore assessed a civil penalty without holding a trial-type hearing.