Hydro relicensing and intervention timing

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues hydropower licenses for terms of up to 50 years.  At least 5 years before license expiration, the licensee is required to notify the Commission and the public whether it intends to apply for a new license for the project, and what licensing process it requests.  Any license application might not come for years after the filing of that notice of intent.  But as a recent Commission order shows, the opportunity for a third party to intervene in the relicensing case is triggered not by the notice of intent, but only after an application for a new license is actually filed and notice is published.

That recent order involved New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG), the licensee for the Upper Mechanicville Hydroelectric Project, FERC No. 2934.  The Upper Mechanicville project is located on the Hudson River in upstate New York, and has an authorized capacity of 18.5 megawatts.  Its original license, issued in 1981 for a 40-year term, expires on March 31, 2021.

On March 30, 2016, NYSEG filed a Notice of Intent to relicense the project, under the Commission's Integrated Licensing Process or ILP, along with a Pre-Application Document.

On April 13, 2016, the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited filed a motion to intervene in the docket, citing Rule 214 of the Commission's Rules of Practice and Procedure.  But on May 24, the Commission issued a notice dismissing that motion.

The notice first points to Rule 214(a)(3) of its procedural order, any person may seek to intervene and become a party in a proceeding by filing a motion to intervene that complies with the content requirements of Rule 214(b).  But the notice states that because NYSEG has not yet filed an application for a new license, there is no proceeding in which to intervene.  It therefore dismissed the motion to intervene as premature.

The notice does offer the Trout Unlimited group two other approaches to involvement.  First, it suggests that interested persons can register and eSubscribe to the docket.  Second, it notes that should NYSEG file an application for a new license for its project, notice of the application will be published, and interested entities "will have an opportunity to intervene and present views concerning the project as proposed in the license application."

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