The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has blocked an attempt by former licensee Mt. Hope Waterpower Project LLP to revive the proposed 2,000-MW Mount Hope pumped-storage project in New Jersey. FERC dismissed the former licensee’s application for a preliminary permit June 15.
Mt. Hope Waterpower filed a preliminary permit application in January in hopes of regaining a license for the site in Rockaway Township, Morris County, N.J. FERC rescinded the license (No. 9401) in December, saying construction did not commence in a timely manner, forcing termination under the Federal Power Act.
FERC previously extended the project’s construction schedule twice at the direction of Congress. However, construction never began due to what Mt. Hope Waterpower called market uncertainties and due to ownership changes of the licensee. The original license was issued in 1992 to Mt. Hope’s predecessor, Halecrest Co.
In a four-page order dismissing the permit application, FERC said letting entities tie up potential hydropower sites for extended periods could have a dampening effect on competition in energy development. In addition, FERC expressed concern about expending its staff resources on developers who repeatedly seek authorizations for projects they previously failed to develop.
FERC invokes “cooling off” period
FERC expressed similar concerns in a recent order dismissing an application by the city of Augusta, Ky., to restart the preliminary permitting process for a hydro project at Meldahl Locks and Dam on the Ohio River. However, FERC said there were some notable differences between the two cases.
“Unlike Augusta, this is not a situation where there is already competition for the Mt. Hope site, and we have been presented only with a preliminary permit application, not with a notice of intent to file a license application,” FERC said. “Like Augusta, however, we deal here with the question of whether we should immediately reserve a hydropower development site for an entity that has recently had a license terminated for failure to commence construction after a period of more than ten years following license issuance.”
As was the case in Augusta, FERC said it does not believe it would be in the public interest to reserve the Mount Hope site to the same entity which, along with its predecessor, held exclusive rights to develop the site for many years. However, FERC did leave the door open for Mt. Hope Waterpower Project LLP to refile an application for a permit or license in the future.
“We are not prepared to determine now whether we would in the future accept a permit or license application from Mt. Hope, but we conclude that, at a minimum, the public interest calls for a ‘cooling off’ period before we consider again reserving the site to Mt. Hope,” FERC said.