FERC denies permit extension; Collinsville license transfer request pending

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has denied a request by Canton, Conn., to extend the city’s second preliminary permit for two Connecticut hydro sites. However, still pending is the city’s request to revive two licenses for the sites and transfer them to the city.

In 2014, Congress approved the Collinsville Renewable Energy Production Act to allow FERC to reinstate the licenses of the 373-kW Upper Collinsville (No. 10822) and 920-kW Lower Collinsville (No. 10823) projects on the Farmington River in Hartford County, Conn. The legislation also said FERC may transfer the licenses from the original licensee, Summit Hydro, to the town of Canton.

Rather than wait on Congress, Canton obtained in 2009 its own three-year preliminary permit to secure priority to develop the sites under the name Canton project (No. 13273) totaling 2.166 MW. When that expired in 2012, the city received a successive permit, which expired in June.

Canton requested a two-year extension of its second preliminary permit, which would allow it to continue to hold priority to develop the site. Congress allowed FERC to grant two-year permit extensions in the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013.

In considering the request, FERC said in most cases six years should be more than enough time to consult with resource agencies and develop a license application. It said, in the absence of “extraordinary circumstances,” allowing a site to be reserved more than six years would violate the commission’s long-standing policy against site banking.

FERC noted Canton asked that the extension not be considered a request for a third permit, which would require it to exhibit extraordinary circumstances for its delay. Instead, it asked for the two-year extension of the second permit, saying that would only require it to show “good faith and reasonable diligence.”

However, Canton also contended it faced extraordinary circumstances as it was still negotiating for a site lease from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and it was concerned the Farmington River might be declared a Wild and Scenic River blocking development.

In denying the extension, FERC said Congress only intended extensions for initial permits and had adopted the good faith and reasonable diligence standard FERC used for approving second permits. For extension of a second permit, FERC said the standard is extraordinary circumstances. It said Canton did not face extraordinary circumstances as many developers face difficulties negotiating for a site and a Wild and Scenic designation would not necessarily preclude development.

Nevertheless, FERC said Canton’s separate request to reinstate the Summit Hydro licenses and transfer them to Canton is still pending.

“In the interest of administrative efficiency, commission staff does not intend to accept any further applications (from competitors) for preliminary permits for the project sites until the reinstatement request and transfer application have been acted upon,” the Aug. 11 order said.

The Collins Co. generated hydropower at the plants from the early 1900s until closure in 1966. The sites subsequently were licensed by the Metropolitan District under FERC project No. 7048 in 1986, and Summit Hydro as the 373-kW Upper Collinsville (No. 10822) and 920-kW Lower Collinsville (No. 10823) projects in 2001. Because Summit did not start construction, FERC issued a notice of intent to terminate its licenses that became final in 2008.

The legislation, by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., would extend the construction start deadline for another two years and allow FERC to add new conditions to the licenses if necessary and would require FERC to supplement its environmental analysis to include any new environmental information.

Canton First Selectman Richard Barlow wrote FERC June 23 urging the agency to follow through with the directive from Congress. Canton noted it issued a request for proposals for a developer/operator for Upper Collinsville, with a bid due date in July. It said, based on the results of the solicitation, it would issue another RFP to develop Lower Collinsville.
 

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