FERC conforms its regulations to Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has amended its regulations on preliminary permits, exemptions and conduit projects to comply with provisions of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013.

To reduce the regulatory burden on some hydropower development, Congress passed the HREA (H.R.267), which was signed into law by President Obama in 2013. One finding by Congress was that there is substantial potential for adding hydropower generation to non-powered dams because only 3 percent of the 80,000 dams in the U.S. generate electricity.

The HREA:

  • increases the maximum small hydro licensing exemption to 10 MW from 5 MW;
  • excludes from FERC jurisdiction qualifying projects under 5 MW that are on water conduits;
  • increases the maximum capacity for all conduit exemptions to 40 MW regardless of whether they are owned by municipalities (non-municipalities' conduit exemptions had been restricted to a maximum of 15 MW) and allows them to be installed on federal lands
  • provides FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits two years beyond their current three-year terms; and
  • requires FERC to examine a two-year licensing process for adding hydropower to non-powered dams and for closed-loop pumped-storage projects.

Soon after passage of the act, FERC staff updated the commission website, http://www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/indus-act/efficiency-act.asp, to provide guidance on the new provisions and began processing applications under the new law. However, the latest rulemaking (RM14-22), approved Sept. 18, formalizes compliance of the commission's regulations with the law.

"Congress recognized that it could encourage hydropower development by reducing costs and regulatory burden during the project study and licensing stages," the rulemaking said. "To that end, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act amends statutory provisions pertaining to preliminary permits and projects that are exempt from licensing."

In compliance with HREA, FERC already has issued two-year preliminary permit extensions, granted a small conduit exemption on federal lands to the 300-kW Monroe Drop project (No. 14430) on a Bureau of Reclamation irrigation canal, and ruled on a number of applications to exclude conduit projects under 5 MW from FERC jurisdiction. It also has approved a two-year licensing pilot project for the 4.9-MW Kentucky River Lock and Dam No. 11 project (No. 14276).

The new rules may be obtained from FERC's Internet site under http://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2014/091814/H-1.pdf.

 

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