Vermont lawmaker urges FERC to simplify small hydro licensing

The chairman of the Vermont Senate’s economic development committee has urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to simplify and reduce the costs of issuing licenses and exemptions to small hydroelectric projects.

“FERC estimates that permitting and environmental studies for a typical small-scale hydro project more than double the project cost,” Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Newport, said. “Typical permitting costs in Vermont, regardless of the project size, are often in the $250,000 to $500,000 range. That’s crazy.”

Illuzzi, chairman of the Vermont Senate’s Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee, filed comments, dated Dec. 31, 2009, with FERC following a Dec. 2 technical conference. The conference covered FERC’s program for granting licenses to small hydro projects as well as exemptions to projects of 5 MW or less, or to hydro plants on water conduits. FERC is taking additional comments until Feb. 4, 2010. (HydroWorld 12/30/09)

“It is estimated that Vermont has up to 400 MW of undeveloped hydroelectric potential,” Illuzzi said. “But no new hydro site has been developed or redeveloped in Vermont for 25 years because of the permitting obstacles.”

The state senator offered a dozen recommendations that FERC could follow to facilitate small hydro. They covered ways FERC could simplify application processes, provide on-line application templates, allow automatic approvals within 60 days after filing unless FERC takes action otherwise, give automatic project approval if a state resources agency gives its approval, and reduce the costs of relicensing.

“Vermont, like other states, has the opportunity to generate renewable power in our towns, along our rivers, and at the same time address climate change, generate skilled jobs in construction, and protect the environment,” Illuzzi said. “These jobs can’t be outsourced.”

FERC is taking comments under Docket AD09-9. Comments may be filed electronically or on paper. Filing instructions are on FERC’s Internet site,, under Documents and Filing. For information, contact Steve Hocking, FERC, (1) 202-502-8753; E-mail:

For more FERC News, click here.

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