Licensing Hydropower Projects:

Better Time and Cost Data Needed to Reach Informed Decisions About Process Reforms

GAO-01-499: Published: May 2, 2001. Publicly Released: May 2, 2001.

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This report assesses the licensing process of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Specifically, GAO examines (1) why the licensing process now takes longer and costs more than it did when FERC issued most original licenses several decades ago; (2) whether participants in the licensing process agree on the need for, and type of, further reforms to reduce time and costs; and (3) whether available time and cost data are sufficient to allow informed decisions on the effectiveness of recent reforms and the need for further reforms. GAO found that since 1986, FERC has been required to give "equal consideration" to, and make tradeoffs among, hydropower generation and other competing resource needs. Additional environmental and land management laws have also placed additional requirements on other federal and state agencies participating in the licensing process to address specific resource needs. GAO found no agreement between FERC, federal and state land resource agencies, licensees, environmental groups, and other participants in the licensing process on the need for further reforms to reduce process-related time and costs. Finally, available time and cost data are insufficient to allow informed decisions on the effectiveness of recent reforms. Without complete and accurate time and cost data and the ability to link time and costs to projects, processes, and outcomes, FERC cannot assess the extent to which the observations and suggestions--or any recommended administrative reforms or legislative changes--might reduce the process' length and costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FERC refuses to respond to any of GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: FERC should inform Congress of the extent that time and cost data limitations restrict its ability to reach informed decisions on whether further administrative reforms or legislative changes are needed to shorten the hydropower licensing process or make it less costly.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FERC refuses to respond to any of GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: FERC should work with other federal agencies to (1) collect complete and accurate data on process-related time and costs by participant, project, and process step and (2) link time and costs to projects displaying similar characteristics in order to identify those project, process, and outcome characteristics that can increase the time and costs to obtain a license.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FERC refuses to respond to any of GAO's recommendations.

    Recommendation: FERC should (1) establish a schedule and firm deadlines for implementing the necessary enhancements to its management information systems required to track and analyze process-related time and costs and (2) share these data with other parties involved or interested in the process.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

 

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