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A balancing act for hydro power

New York Power Authority (NYPA) chairman C D Rappleyea, at the annual meeting of the US Commission on Large Dams (USCOLD), said that the future of hydro power depends on maintaining a careful balance between economics and the environment.

Rappleyea said those who run hydro projects can no longer operate just by minding their own business. In his speech he cited recent decisions by FERC, which required dismantling the Edwards dam in Maine, and the imposition of stringent new environmental operating standards in other projects.

‘It’s a question of balance — whether benefits of these projects, on the whole, outweigh their impact on the environment. That’s a question being asked increasingly around the country, especially with some 550 dams up for federal relicensing in the next 15 years,’ he said. ‘While the move to a competitive marketplace for electricity requires ever-increasing attention to the bottom line, environmental laws and regulations will continue to mandate equally close attention to ecological concerns,’ Rappleyea noted.

NYPA is using a co-operative consultation process in the effort to relicense the St Lawrence FDR project whose licence expires in 2003. The process will bring together diverse parties including federal state regulators, environmentalists, NYPA power customers, home owners and local government officers in an effort to balance interests and avoid costly conflicts (see IWP&DC July 1998, pp24-29).

Rappleyea said that the NYPA hopes these efforts will help satisfy environmental concerns.

•The Public Service Commission in the US has just approved plans by Niagara Mowhawk to auction its 72 hydro power plants. With a generation capacity of over 660MW the plants will be grouped into six packages through river systems.

Orange & Rockland utility has also won approval to auction 44MW of its hydro facilities.