2.1 Who is FERC?
In 1935, Congress enacted the Federal Power Act (FPA) Part I to regulate non-federal hydropower projects in order to contribute to the comprehensive development of our rivers for energy generation and other beneficial uses . The Federal Power Commission (FPC) administered the FPA for the next 42 years. As a result of agency reorganization, in 1977 the FPC was renamed Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is now an independent agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. FERC consists of five Commissioners (including a Chair) who, having been nominated by the President and approved by the Senate, are appointed for a term of five years. The Commissioners vote on each licensing decision, unless uncontested. FERC’s Office of Energy Projects (OEP) is the staff office responsible for the management of each licensing proceeding until the Commissioners’ vote and for the supervision of each licensed project thereafter to assure compliance with the license.
Under FPA section 10(a), the fundamental purpose of each license is to assure that a project is “best adapted to a comprehensive plan of development” of the affected river basin for the beneficial uses of energy generation, water supply, flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife. Under FPA section 4(e), which resulted from the 1986 amendments to the FPA, FERC must now give “equal consideration to energy conservation, the protection, mitigation of damage to, and enhancement of, fish and wildlife (including related spawning grounds and habitat), the protection of recreational opportunities, and the preservation of other aspects of environmental quality.” Under FPA section 18, a license will require a structure or operation to permit the passage of fish through a project, as prescribed by FWS or NMFS. In sum, when making a licensing decision, FERC must assure that the project achieves a balance of beneficial uses of the affected waters and lands, as required by the FPA.