Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Hydroelectric Permitting and Licensing Efforts Are Being Hampered by Hybrid Applications and Staffing

EMD-81-80: Published: May 26, 1981. Publicly Released: May 26, 1981.

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Increases in the price of imported oil have brought renewed interest in developing domestic energy resources. One such resource is hydropower, the use of which has increased tremendously over the past few years. Applications for preliminary permits have increased rapidly, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) estimates that these permits will more than double by September 1981.

Even though the number of applications has been escalating, FERC has been able to reduce its processing time by streamlining the methods used in issuing permits and licenses. However, GAO recently noted that the processing time is beginning to increase again. Two problem areas were identified. The first involves an increasing number of hybrid permit applications. At present, 100 hybrid cases are pending, and FERC has ruled on only one. A review of this area showed that no policy has been developed to handle these permits more expeditiously. The hybrid preliminary permit issue has presented FERC with questions which need to be resolved. The second area deals with staffing. Staffing has remained stable for the past few years while permit and license applications have increased substantially. In addition, the current budget proposals would reduce existing staff which could cause an increase in processing time.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: FERC should (1) evaluate whether increasing the exemption will result in fewer applications; (2) assess the number of preliminary permits which have a high probability of resulting in license applications; and (3) make an assessment of the minimum number of staff to handle the present and projected volume of preliminary permits and licenses.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

  2. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of FERC should expeditiously develop criteria which would set forth the conditions for awarding preliminary permits under hybrid applications. If, upon receiving the information requested by its February 1981 public notice inquiry, the Commission cannot make a decision on the hybrid issue, it may want to seek congressional guidance concerning a clarification of the municipal preference clause.

    Agency Affected: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission


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