Update: FERC reinstates, extends preliminary permit for 500-MW Banks Lake Pumped Storage

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has reinstated the preliminary permit for the 500-MW Banks Lake Pumped Storage Project and extended it for an additional two years.

We reported in September 2018 that FERC had denied a successive preliminary permit for this project, saying that it only grants a second request for a longer permit time when the permittee has demonstrated that extraordinary circumstances or factors outside of its control prevented it  from filing a license application. FERC said Columbia Basin Hydropower (CBHP) failed to meet that burden.

However, in a notice dated Dec. 20, FERC granted a request for rehearing and reinstated and extended the permit. CBHP argued that the passage of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 creates an extraordinary circumstance that warrants issuing a successive permit or reinstating and extending the terms of the previous permit.

FERC said its September decision was the correct one and that passage of the new legislation does not amount to an extraordinary circumstance. Nonetheless, FERC granted the request, saying CBHP had met the good faith and reasonable diligence standard.

The proposed project is to be located on federal lands administered by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, on Banks Lane and Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake near Grand Coulee in Grant County, Washington. The project would use Banks Lake as the upper reservoir and Roosevelt Lake as the lower reservoir. Both lakes are components of Reclamation’s Columbia Basin Project.

Banks Lake Pumped Storage would consist of new water conveyance tunnels, intakes and a powerhouse containing three turbine-generator units.

FERC issued developer CBHP a three-year preliminary permit to study the feasibility of this project on Aug. 22, 2013. Because hydroelectric development on Roosevelt Lake is reserved for federal development under Reclamation law, FERC only has jurisdiction over the portion of the facilities located outside the boundaries of Roosevelt Lake. Reclamation has jurisdiction over the portion located within Roosevelt Lake. Accordingly, CBHP would need to obtain a lease of power privilege from Reclamation.

FERC issued a two-year extension of the preliminary permit on July 5, 2016, citing CBHP’s “substantial progress toward filing a license application as evidenced by its filing of a Pre-Application Document and its Notice of Intent to file a license application using the Traditional Licensing Process.”

The company filed the application for the successive preliminary permit on Aug. 1, 2018, saying it was willing to accept a limited term of 18 months.

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