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On February 22, 2022, FERC issued a Supplemental Notice regarding its planned Technical Conference on its Notice of Inquiry on Financial Assurance Measures for licenses, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 26 at 11:30am.

The Supplemental Notice provides a schedule for the program and proposed panel topics.  The first panel, Protecting Hydroelectric Facilities and

On March 24, 2022, FERC issued an Order Addressing Arguments Raised on Rehearing and Denying Motion for Temporary Stay regarding The Nevada Hydro Company, Inc.’s (Nevada Hydro) October 2017 license application for its proposed Lake Elsinore Advanced Pumped Storage (LEAPS) Project.
Continue Reading FERC Addresses Arguments on Rehearing of Order Dismissing License Application for Pumped Storage Project

On October 21, the Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) issued An Examination of the Hydropower Licensing and Federal Authorization Process, in which it examined the various statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to hydropower projects, and how those requirements protect water quality, fish and wildlife, among other things, they can also add to the time and cost of licensing.  The report provides quantitative and qualitative analyses, considers the perspectives of developers and regulators, and addresses various studies on hydropower licensing timelines and costs, both in the United States and in other hydropower-producing countries.  The report does not propose specific recommendations, but makes a series of key findings that it suggests can be used by policymakers and regulators to engage in informed discussions with project developers and other hydropower stakeholders.
Continue Reading Department of Energy Issues Report on Hydropower Permitting

On December 16, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission or FERC) issued a final rule amending its regulations governing the dam safety of FERC-licensed hydroelectric projects under the Federal Power Act (FPA).  FERC’s final rule follows its July 16, 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) (see July 21, 2020 edition of the WER), which FERC issued following the 2017 spillway incident at the Oroville Dam and the May 2020 dam failures at the Edenville Dam and Sanford Dam in central Michigan.

The Commission explained that its final rule accomplished four objectives that are essential to improving its dam safety program under part 12 of its regulations.  First, it implements the two-tiered inspection program set forth in the NOPR, which will include a comprehensive assessment and a periodic inspection, each of which will be performed at a 10-year interval.  The comprehensive assessment will be more in-depth than the current part 12 inspections, will formally incorporate the existing Potential Failure Mode Analysis process, and will also require a semi-quantitative risk analysis.  The periodic inspection will be narrower in scope and primarily focused on performance of project works between comprehensive assessments.  This two-tier structure retains FERC’s current five-year interval between part 12 inspections at each Commission-licensed project and is consistent with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recommendation that “formal” inspections be conducted every five years.  FERC’s rule explained that this two-tier inspection scheme is similar to those used by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Continue Reading FERC Finalizes Revisions to Dam Safety Regulations

On November 5th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the more than $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the bipartisan infrastructure framework (BIF).  The Senate had already approved the bill back in August, and it now heads to the President’s desk for signature.  The BIF represents a core piece of President Biden’s agenda and provides significant funding for infrastructure improvements in energy and water, including over $900M in waterpower incentives for new and existing hydropower, pumped storage, and marine energy.  Additional spending is provided for dam safety and removal.
Continue Reading Infrastructure Bill Provides Opportunities for Hydroelectric Industry

In June 2021, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced The Maintaining and Enhancing Hydroelectric and River Restoration Act of 2021, which would establish a tax credit for certain investments in dam safety and environmental improvements at qualified dams and separate tax credit to incentivize the removal of obsolete river obstructions, including nonpowered dams.
Continue Reading Senators Murkowski and Cantwell Introduce Bipartisan Hydropower Legislation

On July 14, 2021, the City and County of Denver, Colorado, acting through its Board of Water Commissioners (“Denver Water”), filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, requesting declaratory and injunctive relief against Boulder County over the County’s alleged efforts to delay and obstruct Denver Water’s expansion of the Gross Reservoir Hydroelectric Project.
Continue Reading Denver Water Files Complaint in Federal Court, Seeking Preemption of Boulder County Regulation Due to FERC Hydroelectric Project License

In an order dated May 20, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, or the Commission) terminated the hydropower licenses for three projects located on the Tittabawasee River in Michigan—the Secord (P-10809), Smallwood (P-10810) and Sanford (P-2785) dams.  The termination by implied surrender follows a May 2020 breach at the Sanford dam and the breach

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which includes a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2021 along with $900 billion in COVID-19 stimulus relief.  The Act includes a variety of measures to promote clean energy and climate policy, as well as several hydropower-related provisions.
Continue Reading Hydropower Provisions Included in 2021 Appropriations Bill