FERC issues 50-year relicense to New York’s 2,755-MW Niagara

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a 50-year relicense March 15 to the New York Power Authority’s 2,755-MW Niagara project, ensuring another half-century’s operation of the project, which supplies 10 percent of New York’s electricity.

FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher congratulated parties for reaching a settlement that resulted in relicensing the historic project at Niagara Falls (No. 2216) before the original license expires on Aug. 31.

�The Niagara project provides a reliable source of low-cost energy, and the provisions we accept today ensure improved environmental protections,� Kelliher said.

As part of the relicensing, FERC approved a settlement agreement providing for fish and wildlife habitat improvements, an ecological oversight committee, public access and recreation improvements, a management plan for project lands, and improvements to a tunnel to minimize groundwater seepage.

The license also includes an agreement, consistent with federal legislation authorizing the project, that requires NYPA to make at least half the project power available to public bodies and non-profit cooperatives to ensure the �preference power� is sold to consumers at the lowest rates possible. The agreement also provides for a reasonable portion, up to 20 percent, of the power to be available in seven neighboring states.

The Niagara project includes the 240-MW Lewiston pumped-storage plant and the 2,515-MW Robert Moses Niagara power plant on the Niagara River between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in Niagara County, N.Y. It diverts water from the Niagara River 2.6 miles upstream of Niagara Falls and releases it back to the river about five miles downstream of the falls.

NYPA officials cite stakeholder participation

NYPA officials said the license issuance, five months before the original license expires, is testament to extensive work on the process, including substantial input from interested parties.

�The use of an open and publicly inclusive process enabled NYPA to build significant consensus for the project’s relicensing and led to various agreements with federal and state resource agencies, western New York municipalities, the Tuscarora Nation, and other area stakeholders,� NYPA Chairman Frank McCullough Jr. and President Timothy Carey said in a joint statement.

The NYPA officials noted that �non-licensing settlements� outside FERC jurisdiction also provide for funding and low-cost power that will assure substantial financial benefits for local governments, school districts, and other key stakeholders. In 2005, NYPA agreed to pay $280 million to the city of Buffalo and Erie County over 50 years for their support of the relicensing, on top of agreements to spend another $1.3 billion in the state over 50 years. (HNN 12/30/05)

In December, NYPA completed a $298 million, 15-year program to upgrade the Robert Moses Niagara plant. The program replaced turbines and retrofit other components in all 13 generating units. (HNN 1/3/07) Work began in 1991, and the last of the units was returned to service Dec. 21. NYPA also completed a $24 million maintenance program in 2006 at the Lewiston plant.

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