RAPID/Roadmap/7-CO-a

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RAPID

Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Colorado Small-Low Impact Hydropower Program (7-CO-a)

In Colorado, small, low-impact hydroelectric projects may qualify for streamlined federal permitting assistance from the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). In 2010, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of Colorado entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to encourage the development of small-scale, low-impact hydropower. Memorandum of Understanding between FERC and Colorado to Streamline the Authorization of Small Scale Hydropower Projects. The MOU developed procedures to simplify the regulatory review of small, low-impact hydropower projects and expedite development. In turn, the partnership led to the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 institutionalizing the state assistance practice, helping qualified projects navigate through the new streamlined process to obtain a FERC small hydropower exemption or authorization. Colorado Energy Office – Hydropower Website.


In addition, in 2014 the Colorado Legislature passed a bill to streamline state environmental review for small, low-impact hydroelectric projects. Colorado - C.R.S. 24-38.5-108, Colorado Energy Office-State Agency Coordination of Review of Federal License and Exemption Applications for Hydroelectric Energy Projects.The new legislation authorized CEO within the Colorado Office of the Governor to coordinate state agencies to facilitate the timely state agency review of a proposed hydroelectric project. CRS 24-38.5-108(1)(e). Specifically, the CEO coordinates and compiles state agency comments when qualifying small hydropower projects apply for a FERC exemption or authorization. CRS 24-38.5-108(3)(a)-(c); Colorado Energy Office – Hydropower Website. The CEO regulates the streamlined process for small, low-impact hydroelectric projects pursuant to Colorado - C.R.S. 24-38.5-108, Colorado Energy Office-State Agency Coordination of Review of Federal License and Exemption Applications for Hydroelectric Energy Projects. By coordinating resource agency reviews, and providing a single point of contact for applicants (developers), the Colorado small, low-impact state assistance practice reduces the time it takes to obtain a FERC exemption or authorization.


Small-Low Impact Hydropower Program Process

7-CO-a.1 to 7-CO-a.4 — Does the Project Qualify as Small, Low-Impact Hydropower?

To qualify as a “low-impact” project the project must meet the following criteria:

  • Utilize existing infrastructure;
  • No significant changes to current operation of infrastructure;
  • No new stream diversions (this also means the developer cannot draw a larger quantity of water, or more often from existing diversions);
  • Minimal or easily mitigated effects on water quality, fish passage, threatened or endangered species, and cultural or recreational resource;
  • Meet all requirements for a FERC Conduit Exemption or 10MW Exemption:
Conduit Exemption
  1. Built on a conduit or other water infrastructure primarily for non-power purposes;
  2. Issued in perpetuity;
  3. 15 MW or less for non-municipal projects and 40 MW or less for municipal projects;
  4. Power facility located entirely on non-federal lands;
  5. Subject to mandatory fish and wildlife conditions (section 30(c) conditions);
  6. Categorically exempt from National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) analysis, although Environmental Assessment needed in some circumstances; and
  7. Boundary is only around power facility.

18 CFR § 4.30(b); 16 USC § 823a as amended by the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013; Colorado Small Hydropower Handbook, at 6.

10 MW Exemption
  1. Built at an existing dam or uses a natural water feature;
  2. Issued in perpetuity;
  3. 5 MW or less;
  4. If the project exists, must add capacity;
  5. Subject to mandatory fish and wildlife conditions (section 30(c) conditions);
  6. Require National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) analysis
  7. Project boundary is same as a licensed project (include dam and reservoir); and
  8. The applicant (developer) must possess all real property rights at the time of the filing unless on federal land.

18 CFR § 4.30(b)(26); 16 USC 2705 as amended by the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013; Colorado Small Hydropower Handbook, at 6.

If the project qualifies as a small, low-impact hydropower project the developer may file a Notice of Intent for an exemption or a Notice of Intent to construct a qualifying conduit hydropower facility with FERC. For more information, see:

FERC Qualifying Conduit Hydropower Facility Authorization

FERC Qualifying Conduit Hydropower Facility Authorization:
7-FD-f

FERC Exemption Process

FERC Exemption Process:
7-FD-g


7-CO-a.5 — Notify the Colorado Energy Office

After submitting the appropriate Notice of Intent to FERC the developer should notify the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) regarding the small, low-impact hydropower project. Colorado Energy Office – Hydropower Website.

7-CO-a.6 – Notify Relevant State Agencies

Upon notice, CEO will review the project material and notify the relevant state agencies about the project and the Notice of Intent submitted to FERC. Colorado Energy Office – Hydropower Website. CEO must provide the state agencies with a general description of the FERC review process and forward the proposed project information to the interested agencies for their review. Colorado Energy Office – Hydropower Website; Colorado - C.R.S. 24-38.5-108, Colorado Energy Office-State Agency Coordination of Review of Federal License and Exemption Applications for Hydroelectric Energy Projects.

7-CO-a.7 – Hold Preliminary Meeting

CEO will host a meeting with the project developer, and the relevant state agencies regarding the proposed project. The parties may discuss the proposed project details, the FERC review process, and streamlined federal permitting assistance practice. CEO must also notify the state agencies about the deadline by which they must submit any comments regarding the application. CRS 24-38.5-108(3).

7-CO-a.8 – Submit Comments

The interested state agencies will submit comments regarding the proposed project to CEO by the date set at the preliminary meeting. Colorado Energy Office – Hydropower Website.

7-CO-a.9 – Hold Meeting

After the interested state agencies draft comments regarding the proposed project, CEO will host a meeting with those interested state agencies. The parties will discuss the draft comments regarding the proposed project.


7-CO-a.10 — Submit Complied Agency Comments to FERC

After the state agencies review the project details and provide comments and/or initial mandatory conditions for a specific project, CEO compiles the comments and conditions. The CEO Representative then compiles the comments and conditions and the appropriate documentation and exhibits. The CEO Representative then submits the compiled information to FERC for review. CRS 24-38.5-108(3).




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