FERC Reinstates School Street License

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In a ruling issued yesterday, FERC reinstated the license for School Street project issued in February 2007, thereby giving a serious blow to Green Island Power Authority’s (GIPA’s) plan to get a license for their proposed 100 MW Cohoes Falls project, just downstream of the current School Street site. The project is located on the Mohawk River in Albany and Saratoga Counties, New York.

On August 10, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had vacated the license order for the 38.8 MW School Street Project (P-2539) and asked FERC to determine whether the offer of settlement filed by Erie Boulevard Hydropower, the licensee for the School Street project, constituted material amendment, in which case FERC would have been obligated to grant an intervener status to GIPA. In yesterday’s ruling, FERC determined that the offer of settlement did not constitute material amendment and thus FERC did not err in denying GIPA intervention.

In the ruling, FERC states-

...although the changes proposed in the 2005 settlement provided significant benefits to the resources involved, they did so without radically altering the overall plans of development for the site. The 2005 settlement proposed to develop the same basic project, with minor adjustments.  Accordingly, we find that the 2005 offer of settlement, in its entirety, did not constitute a material amendment of the relicense application.

FERC went on to clarify that minor adjustments to operation of the project do not constitute material amendment. However, cumulative effect of all of such adjustments, when considered together, could constitute a material amendment. This has a huge bearing in resource protection as public participation is allowed only in case of material amendment.

FERC also analyzed GIPA’s proposed project and determined that the Cohoes Falls Project is not an economically feasible alternative to the School Street Project. Licensing and constructing GIPA’s Cohoes Falls project would have required decommissioning of the School Street project and removal of the dam.

Read FERC’s ruling here.