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FERC refuses to vacate removal order on US dam

The national-hydropower-association (NHA) in the US has expressed concern over the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’S) decision to deny an industry motion to vacate the Commission’s removal order of 25 November 1997, which referred to the Edwards dam in Maine.

‘We are very disheartened that FERC has chosen the Edwards case to establish major precedent on its decommissioning authority when it clearly had alternatives to avoid conflict and establish a more rational course of action,’ Linda Church Ciocci, NHA’s executive director said.

NHA said it believed the decision will have enormous impacts on hydro power development in the US and it will ‘ring loudly beyond this case’.

Along with its 3-2 decision not to vacate the decommissioning order, FERC unanimously approved the Edwards settlement which was agreed in May and transfers the dam licence from Edwards Manufacturing Company to the State of Maine, who will then voluntarily proceed with decommissioning and dam removal. (See IWP&DC July 1998, p2).

Church Ciocci added: ‘Like the Commissioners, we support the settlement agreement and appreciate the efforts the Commission took to protect the integrity of the settlement process. Yet we believe there are alternative means for FERC to uphold the settlement without jeopardising the rights of hydro power developers.’ NHA said that FERC has placed another obstacle to the development of renewable hydro power.

‘No sane investor would risk his or her capital knowing full well that a government take-over could mean losing it all,’ Church Ciocci said. ‘As an intervening party, NHA will have to study this decision and consider all our options, including court action, to address this wrongheaded FERC policy.’ Commenting on the removal order last year, NHA claims that Congress has not explicitly given FERC the authority to unilaterally order dam removal at an owner’s expense and without just compensation.