FERC plans to update hydropower project safety regulations

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the U.S. proposes to update its hydropower project safety regulations to promote continued safe operation, maintenance and repair at jurisdictional projects to ensure the protection of life, health and property in surrounding communities. 

The proposed changes to part 12 of FERC’s regulations are outlined in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR). FERC periodically enhances its dam safety program through its engineering guidelines document, training and other coordination with the hydropower industry. The commission seeks to revise its regulations to:

  • Incorporate two tiers of project safety inspections by independent consultants;
  • Codify existing guidance requiring certain licensees to develop dam safety programs and public safety plans; and
  • Update existing regulations related to public safety incident reporting.

“Today’s proposal is a significant step in ensuring our dam safety program remains top-notch,” FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said. “The engineering aspects of the dam safety arena are ever-changing, so this is an important and necessary step as we move forward.”

The proposed two-tier inspection structure would include a comprehensive assessment and a periodic inspection. An independent consultant safety inspection would still be required every five years, but the scope of the inspection would alternate between a comprehensive assessment and a periodic inspection. These inspections are in addition to FERC staff’s regular dam safety inspections. 

FERC also proposes to change the process by which it reviews and evaluates the qualifications of independent consultants who conduct part 12 inspections. The goal is to ensure that each project is inspected by an independent consultant or independent consultant team with sufficient experience and expertise for the site-specific conditions.

Comments on the NOPR are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. 

FERC also plans to update and add new chapters to its engineering guidelines document. The commission is soliciting public review and comment on these guidelines, which will be issued in draft format in four advisory dockets accessible on the eLibrary website:

  • AD20-20-000 (Supporting Technical Information Document)
  • AD20-21-000 (Part 12D Program)
  • AD20-22-000 (Potential Failure Modes Analysis)
  • AD20-23-000 (Level 2 Risk Analysis)


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