Environmental groups filed a July 18 appeal at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a June 20 decision by FERC to grant a new license to Alabama Power for a series of hydroelectric dams on the Coosa River with a total capacity of 961 MW.
American Rivers and the Alabama Rivers want a rehearing of the commission’s license order. Pursuant to the Secretary of Interior’s reserved authority to review any decision of any employee or employees of the Department of Interior, or direct any such employee to reconsider such decision, the groups also want reconsideration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS’s) written concurrence issued for the project under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The petition alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Power Act (FPA), the ESA, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
“The new license as issued is not best suited to a comprehensive plan of development for the Coosa River for the next 30 years, is not based on substantial evidence, and is arbitrary and capricious, in addition to violating NEPA, the ESA, and their implementing regulations,” said the request for rehearing. “The FWS’s June 7, 2012 Biological Opinion (BiOp) for this project, and the Commission’s December 31, 2009 Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), are specifically and separately challenged along with the June 20, 2013 Order. The licensing process overall has frustrated public participation by leaving key issues unresolved.”
FERC has violated the requirements of NEPA by arbitrarily and capriciously failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Coosa project, the groups claimed. The project’s direct and cumulative impacts to water quality, threatened and endangered species, and water quantity in the Coosa system (and the larger Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Mobile Bay systems), all meet the regulatory definitions of “significance” that call for the creation of an EIS, they added.
This license encompasses seven developments along the Coosa River system operated by Alabama Power. Five of those developments (Weiss, Neely Henry, Logan Martin, Lay, and Bouldin) were originally licensed in 1957 and are now being relicensed for the first time in 56 years. Two of the developments (Mitchell and Jordan) were originally licensed in the 1920s and relicensed in 1975 and 1980 respectively.