FERC issues NOPR on expedited hydro licensing process

Late last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the U.S. proposed to expedite the issuance of original hydropower licenses for certain qualifying facilities at existing non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects.

The process, which is part of the commission’s continuing efforts to implement the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, is intended to ensure a final licensing decision no later than two years after receipt of a completed application.

Before releasing this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, in November FERC invited federal and state agencies, as well as Native American tribes, to participate in an interagency task force to coordinate the regulatory processes associated with the proposal. Preliminary discussions took place in December.

To qualify as a facility at a non-powered dam for the purpose of the expedited licensing process, a project cannot already be licensed, nor can it be exempted from the licensing requirements in the Federal Power Act. It also must be associated with a non-powered dam and be constructed, operated and maintained for the generation of electric power. It must generate electricity by using withdrawals, diversions, releases or flows from the associated qualifying non-powered dam and cannot make any material changes to the storage, release or flow operations of the associated qualifying non-powered dam.

To qualify as a closed-loop pumped storage facility for the purpose of the expedited licensing process, a project should cause little or no change in existing surface and groundwater flows and uses and must not adversely affect threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

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