The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to enable hydropower development at the USACE’s federal facilities, to synchronize each agency’s permitting process.
The MOU, which is an update to the previous MOU signed by the agencies in 2011, offers a more streamlined approach for project developers in an effort to improve efficiency within the FERC and USACE processes and to reduce permitting times, providing a single document and ensuring more certainty and less risk.
“The potential for hydropower development in this country is significant, particularly at existing Corps facilities,” said FERC Chairman Norman Bay. “Today’s MOU is a positive step toward the development of these resources. Thank you to the Corps for their commitment to working with us to streamline our processes.”
“This strengthened collaboration between FERC and the Army Corps of Engineers advances the Obama
Administration’s work to transition to a clean energy economy, and reduce carbon pollution,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “This synchronized approach will shorten the time it takes the private sector to develop and construct new hydropower, and will help us more efficiently use our existing infrastructure. It is also advancing our efforts to find alternative ways to finance new infrastructure.”
The synchronized approach has two phases – an environmental review phase followed by an in-depth technical, engineering and safety review phase. During Phase 1, the developer, FERC staff and Corps staff will meet early to discuss the developer’s proposal and the information needed to support the agencies’ permitting decisions. The environmental effects of the proposed project will be evaluated up front through a single, joint environmental document and a FERC license will be issued.
Phase 2 will include the developer coordinating with FERC and Corps staff to prepare a final project design and submitting that design to the Commission and the Corps. Once all of the Corps’ preconstruction requirements have been completed and the Commission receives the Corps’ written construction approval, the Commission will authorize the construction phase of the project.
Currently, the FERC issues preliminary permits and licenses to non-federal entities for the development of hydropower projects, including projects utilizing federal dams or other federal facilities, while the Corps operates water resources projects throughout the nation where potential exists for the development of hydropower and allows the development of hydropower at suitable projects. The updated MOU will simplify the permitting processes, leaving less room for error and provide an expedited timeline for the construction projects to get underway.