Former North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark was sworn in last week as a Commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Clark fills the position left vacant after the departure of Marc Spitzer, who resigned in December 2011.
Hydropower represents approximately 20% of the world’s energy supply, is viewed as both vulnerable to global climate warming and an asset to reduce climate altering emissions, and is increasingly the target of improved regulation to meet multiple ecosystem service benefits. It is within this context that the recent decision by the United States Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject studies of climate change in its consideration of reoperation of the Yuba-Bear Drum-Spaulding hydroelectric facilities in northern California is shown to be poorly reasoned and risky. Given the rapidity of climate warming, and its anticipated impacts to natural and human communities, future long-term fixed licenses of hydropower operation will be ill prepared to adapt if science-based approaches to incorporating reasonable and foreseeable hydrologic changes into study plans are not included. The licensing of hydroelectricity generation can no longer be issued in isolation due to downstream contingencies such as domestic water use, irrigated agricultural production, ecosystem maintenance, and general socioeconomic well-being. At minimum, if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is to establish conditions of operation for 30-50 years, licensees should be required to anticipate changing climatic and hydrologic conditions for a similar period of time.
Available online at https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/pdf/Viers_JAWRA_2011.pdf
Yesterday, FERC and Army Corps of Engineers signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate the respective regulatory processes associated with the authorizations required to construct and operate non-Federal hydropower projects.According to the press release by FERC, the MOU provides for:
FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to streamline the permitting process for small-scale hydropower projects that utilize existing dams or other infrastructures such as canals and conduits.