On October 17, 2019, FERC denied requests for rehearing filed by the California State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) and conservation organizations in response to the Commission’s unanimous April 18, 2019 order finding that SWRCB had waived its authority under section 401(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1641, to issue a water quality certification for the relicensing of Placer County Water Agency’s Middle Fork American River Hydroelectric Project (“Middle Fork Project”) (see April 24, 2019 edition of the WER).
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On October 17, 2019, FERC amended its Policy Statement on Consultation with Indian Tribes in Commission Proceedings (“Policy Statement”) by adding a specific reference to treaty rights, noting that the Commission addresses input from tribes in its National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) documents, and adding consultation with Alaska Native Corporations to the Policy Statement.
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On October 17, 2019, pursuant to the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) of 2018, FERC issued a guidance document for applicants seeking preliminary permits or licenses for closed-loop pumped storage projects at abandoned mine sites.  It also issued a list of 230 existing nonpowered federal dams that FERC—along with the Secretaries of the Interior, Army, and Agriculture (collectively, the Secretaries)—determined have the greatest potential for nonfederal hydropower development.
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On September 30, 2019, FERC accepted in part and rejected in part, the California Independent System Operator’s (“CAISO”) July 2, 2019 proposed revisions (“July 2 Filing”)  to its open access transmission tariff (“Tariff”) to include three unrelated mitigation measures designed to facilitate the participation of fast-ramping hydroelectric resources in the western energy imbalance market (“EIM”). FERC accepted two aspects of CAISO’s proposal related to the mitigation timing (the “Mitigation Timing” proposal and a hydro default energy bid (“DEB”) proposal, referred to as the “Hydro DEB” proposal), but rejected CAISO’s proposal to allow an EIM entity balancing authority area (“BAA”) in the real-time market to limit dispatch of incremental net exports under certain conditions (the “Net Export Limit” proposal).
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On September 20, 2019, FERC issued an original license to McMahan Hydroelectric, LLC (“McMahan”) for the 600-kilowatt Bynum Hydroelectric Project, located on the Haw River in Chatham County, North Carolina. In its licensing order, FERC held that North Carolina waived authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) by failing to act within one year of receiving McMahan’s request for water quality certification under section 401. In a separate statement, Commissioner Glick—while agreeing with the conclusion that North Carolina had waived section 401 authority—dissented in the Commission’s rationale for finding waiver.
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On August 9, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) ruled that hundreds of millions of dollars of ongoing and future investments by Chelan County Public Utility District (“Chelan PUD”) in the Rock Island Hydroelectric Project qualified as early-action investments under the new section 36(c) of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”).  Accordingly, FERC will consider these significant investments when the Rock Island Project undergoes relicensing of its FERC license prior to the 2028 expiration of the license.

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On May 23, 2019, FERC issued a 10-year pilot license to the Igiugig Village Council (“Igiugig Village”) to construct, operate, and maintain its 70-kilowatt hydrokinetic project located on the Kvichak River near the town of Igiugig, Alaska (“Igiugig Project”).  The Igiugig Project will enable to Igiugig Village to test new hydrokinetic technology to power the Igiugig Village.
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On May 21, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) announced that its Hydroelectric Production Incentive Program is offering $6.6 million in new funding for projects that would add hydropower generating capabilities to existing dams throughout the U.S.  Qualified facilities will be selected for funding based on the number of kilowatt hours generated in calendar year 2018.
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In the April 27, 2019 edition of the Energy Bar Association’s Energy Law Journal, FERC Commissioner Richard Glick and legal advisor Matthew Christiansen published an article titled “FERC and Climate Change,” describing that the actions of the Commission, as well as the family of federal and state agencies, have “substantial consequences” for climate change.  The authors argue that the threat of climate change does not necessitate “a wholesale reinterpretation of the Commission’s jurisdiction or a novel regulatory paradigm,” but rather a consistent application of FERC’s existing mandate.  In addition to discussing the Commission’s role in wholesale electric markets in enabling competition for zero-and-low carbon-emitting technologies (such as solar, wind, batteries and even distributed energy resources), the authors place emphasis on hydroelectric generation as an effective resource for grid decarbonization and that such benefits should be considered in FERC’s existing “public interest” analysis.
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Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) released an update (“2018 Update”) to its 2017 U.S. Hydropower Market Report (“2017 Report”).  The 2018 Update provides a status report on the U.S. hydropower industry as of the end of 2018, and includes publicly available data and information on existing U.S. hydropower facilities, including trends on capacity, generation, and new investment.
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