FERC rejects rehearing requests for tidal energy project in Washington

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Dec. 5 rejected rehearing requests related to a 600-kW pilot tidal energy project in Washington State.

FERC was acting on requests for rehearing of two commission orders involving the Admiralty Inlet Pilot Tidal Project. In a March 20 order, the commission issued a 10-year license for the project to the Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, Washington. The 600-kW project will be located on the east side of Admiralty Inlet in Puget Sound, Washington, about 0.6 miles west of Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington.

PC Landing Corp. and the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, intervenors in the licensing proceeding, filed requests for rehearing of the license order, and the Tribes also filed a motion for a stay of the license. PC Landing argued that the project poses an unacceptable risk to its international fiber optic telecommunications system. Tulalip maintains that the project would significantly interfere with its access to tribal fishing grounds.

After the license was issued, the District filed a petition asking the commission to declare that the Federal Power Act (FPA) preempts Washington State’s regulatory authority under its Shoreline Management Act and that, as a result, the District is not required to obtain the state’s approval in the form of a shoreline use permit. In a June 19 order, the commission granted the District’s petition and denied the Tribes’ motion for a stay. PC Landing and the Tribes filed requests for rehearing of the preemption order, arguing that it is premature, unnecessary,and inconsistent with law and commission policy.

“For the reasons discussed below, we deny rehearing of both orders and affirm that the Admiralty Inlet Project can proceed without posing a significant risk to PC Landing’s telecommunications system or adversely affecting the Tribes’ access to their traditional fishing grounds,” said the Dec. 5 FERC order. “We further affirm that, in this case, the FPA preempts Washington’s Shoreline Act authority and a state permit is not required.”

Said the commission on the possible cable damage issue: “We find no basis for PC Landing’s argument. The license order and [environmental assessment] considered the possible risks of the project to the cable from both planned and unplanned marine operations and found them insignificant. In response to PC Landing’s concerns, Article 411 of the license requires a hazard identification and risk assessment plan to minimize potential hazards to the cable. Among other things, the plan must include procedures for installing, maintaining, and removing the project turbines that uses “liveboat” techniques (those that do not require the use of anchoring) for all marine operations. The only exception is for operations during the horizontal directional drilling and connection of the trunk cables, which will occur more than a mile away from the cable. The plan must include criteria for weather and wave conditions, redundancy in the use of equipment and vessels, criteria for aborting the operations, and establishment of a ‘port of refuge’ located at least two kilometers away from the cable in the event of adverse weather or other events. These measures make it highly unlikely that marine operations associated with the project would result in damage to the cable.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.