FERC rules against Green Island’s hydro plant for Cohoes
Posted on April 15, 2010 | By Larry Rulison
Hearst Times Union
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled against the Green Island Power Authority this morning and its plan to build a 100-megawatt hydro plant above the Cohoes Falls. Officials at GIPA today said they were “disappointed” in the decision, but not surprised.
The order restores a previous 40-year license that FERC had given to Brookfield Renewable Power of Toronto in 2007. A federal appeals court revolked the license last fall after finding that FERC did not consider GIPA’s plan as part of the licensing process.
As part of its order, FERC also rejected GIPA’s plan outright. It’s unclear what next legal step GIPA could take at this point.
Here is a summary of the decision recently posted on the FERC Web site:
FERC reinstates new School Street Project license H-3, Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P., Project No. 2539-003. This order responds to the court’s August 10, 2009, decision in Green Island Power Authority v. FERC, which vacated the new license issued to Erie Boulevard Hydropower, L.P. for the 38.8-megawatt (MW) School Street Project No. 2539, on the Mohawk River in Albany and Saratoga Counties, New York, and remanded the case for further proceedings. This order finds that the offer of settlement was not a material amendment and, therefore, the Commission need not consider as timely a motion to intervene filed by Green Island. This order nevertheless considers Green Island’s proposal, and further finds that the proposed Cohoes Falls Project does not present a feasible alternative to the School Street Project. The order therefore reinstates the license for the School Street Project as issued.
Here is a statement from GIPA Chairman Jack Brown:
“Green Island Power Authority is deeply disappointed with FERC’s decision. However, no FERC decision surprises me. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit clearly ruled last August that by not considering alternative projects in this matter, FERC had ”violated its statutory duty to give full consideration to alternative plans.” Clearly, FERC did not heed the language of the Second Circuit Court’s ruling that FERC could only license a project that was “best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway.”
It is inconceivable that FERC went even further and summarily stated that GIPA’s alternative was not feasible even though they never reviewed the project and stated so during the court proceedings. In fact, GIPA’s project is a far superior alternative for Cohoes Falls, which would have a tremendous positive impact on the Capital Region economy and environment. Today, the Capital Region has lost 100 MW of modern hydropower, an opportunity to restore Cohoes Falls, and the opportunity to use that power to bring jobs here.
Waterways are public assets, and as such, GIPA believes strongly that hydroelectric power generated on the Mohawk River should put the interests of the people of the Capital Region ahead of private shareholders of a foreign company. The current operator, a company based in Canada, sells the power on the market for profit, with no energy whatsoever being directly provided to local schools, municipalities or regional economic development projects. As a public benefit corporation, GIPA’s efforts at Cohoes Falls have been aimed at creating a far greater benefit for the people of the Capital Region and providing low cost and renewable energy that can be provided directly to local users.
GIPA wanted FERC to shake the stagnant status quo at Cohoes Falls and provide a full and thorough review as outlined by federal regulation and by clear legal precedent. We did not receive a full, fair and open hearing in this important matter, and we will weigh all of our options after discussion with our counsel and trustees.”
Here too, is a statement issued by a Brookfield spokeswoman:
“We are pleased by today’s ruling by FERC. Throughout this entire process, we have remained confident that Brookfield’s School Street project is the highest and best use of the Mohawk River, consistently balancing environmental, historic, public, recreation and generation needs. FERC’s reinstatement of our 40-year license effectively confirms our position, and determines that GIPA’s ‘Cohoes Falls Project does not present a feasible alternative to the School Street Project.’
Brookfield Renewable Power is committed to the School Street facility and to the surrounding communities. We are a national leader in operating hydropower facilities in ways that protect the environment. Brookfield built Falls View Park, which provides exceptional views of Cohoes Falls and has attracted thousands of visitors to the area. We have invested millions of dollars into upgrading the facility and surrounding grounds, including work last year that added 22,000 MWh of new generation, or enough to cleanly power over 3,000 New York households.
We look forward to continuing and strengthening our partnerships in the community while responsibly operating the School Street Facility for many years to come.”
GIPA is reviewing the decision and should have a response soon. We are also expecting U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a big supporter of the GIPA proposal, to also make some noise.