On Monday, January 6, 2014, FERC issued a notice soliciting potential small hydropower projects at non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects to participate in a pilot two-year licensing process.  FERC will accept applications for potential pilot projects from February 5 until May 5, 2014.

President Obama signed into law the “Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013” (the “Act”) on August 9, 2013.  The Act amends certain provisions of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) and the Federal Power Act and is intended to make it easier to develop smaller hydropower projects.  In order to streamline the approval process for small hydropower projects, the Act directs FERC to investigate the viability of a two year licensing process for hydropower development at non-powered dams and closed-loop pump storage projects.  Earlier this year FERC held an initial workshop exploring the issue.  FERC also solicited the submission of written comments, seeking additional information from any interested parties.

In the solicitation for pilot projects, FERC explains that it has used the information gathered from the workshop, the comments it received and its experience with expediting projects to identify certain minimum criteria that any proposed projects must include:

  • Minimal change to existing surface and groundwater flows and uses;
  • No adverse effect on federally listed threatened and endangered species;
  • A letter from the implicated federal dam owner saying the plan is feasible (if applicable);
  • A letter from the managing entity of any public park, recreation area, or wildlife refuge giving its approval to use the site (if applicable); and
  • For closed-loop pumped storage projects, the project must not be continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature.

A request to participate in the pilot program should contain:

  • A demonstration that the proposed project meets the minimum criteria outlined above;
  • Documentation that the prospective applicant has meaningfully met with any affected federal and state resource agencies, Indian tribes, interested non-governmental organizations and the public regarding the proposed project and its potential involvement in the pilot process.  The applicant should include a summary of verbal comments and copies of any written comments received in response to the meeting;
  • Copies of written comments from any affected agencies and Indian tribes regarding the availability of existing information and the need for studies to supplement the existing information, including the anticipated scope and duration of the studies;
  • A “Pre-Application Document and Proposed Study Plan” that meet the content requirements of 18 CFR §§ 5.6 and 5.11;
  • A List of any potential environmental effects; and
  • A process plan and schedule to be approved by FERC.

To view the notice, click here.