Creating a New FERC Licensing Process

Hydro Review

May 2004

By Michael A. Swiger and Megan M. Grant

Using a stakeholder-based effort to reform the approach to hydropower licensing, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission created a new licensing process known as the ILP.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) new process for licensing a hydroelectric project — the Integrated Licensing Process, or ILP — is intended to improve process efficiency, predictability, and timeliness; balance stakeholder interests; and improve the quality of decision-making on hydropower licenses.

In addition to creating a new licensing process, FERC’s recent licensing reform efforts included making notable changes to the existing “traditional” and “alternative” licensing processes. These reform efforts featured a number of stakeholder forums attended by a wide range of individuals involved in the hydro licensing process, including project owners, state and federal natural resource agencies, and environmental groups. Many of the suggestions offered at these forums were incorporated into both the new licensing process and the changes to the existing processes.

Now there are three

Prior to FERC’s action in 2003, there were two licensing procedures available: the traditional licensing process and the alternative licensing process. The traditional process, as its name implies, came first and was the default licensing process. The traditional process provides that the formal proceeding before FERC does not begin until the application is filed, and FERC staff generally do not participate in prefiling consultation. Then, after the application is filed, the federal agencies with responsibilities under the Federal Power Act and other statutes, the states, Indian tribes, and other participants have opportunities to request additional studies and provide comments and recommendations.

Although emphasizing extensive prefiling consultation, the traditional process has come to be viewed as adversarial and applicant-driven. Moreover, the initiation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) scoping often provides a “second bite” opportunity for resource agencies to raise new issues and expand the record.

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