FERC rejects extended permit for California hydropower project

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, citing a lack of progress toward a license application, on Jan. 20 rejected a request to extend a preliminary permit for a hydropower project in California.

On April 30, 2014, Bishop Tungsten LLC filed a timely application for a two-year extension of its preliminary permit for the proposed Lower Pine Creek Canyon Hydroelectric Project. The project would be located adjacent to Pine Creek in Inyo County, California.

In June 2011, commission staff issued Bishop Tungsten a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the Lower Pine Creek Project, which would consist of: a connection to an existing network of penstocks that collect and convey ground water from the Pine Creek Mine above the project area; a single 20-inch-diameter conduit within the project area that would convey the water to one of six potential discharge areas where a hydropower turbine would be located and the water beneficially reused; a powerhouse containing a single 4,400-kilowatt impulse turbine and a generator with an installed capacity of 4,620-kVA; and an interconnection to a Southern California Edison 56-kV power line that runs alongside the road for the length of the canyon.

“Bishop Tungsten states that an extension is needed because of unforeseen circumstances related to another proposed project in the project area,” FERC noted. “It states that the feasibility of the Lower Pine Creek Canyon project is dependent on the successful outcome of studies currently being performed for the Pine Creek Mine Project No. 12532, for which Pine Creek Mine, LLC (Pine Creek Mine) formerly held a preliminary permit. Bishop Tungsten maintains that, once those studies are complete, they will be used to prepare the license application for the Lower Pine Creek Canyon Project.

“Holding a site and delaying its assessment while waiting for studies to be completed on a separate project would constitute site banking. The essence of the Commission’s policy against site banking is that an entity that is unwilling or unable to develop a site should not be permitted to maintain the exclusive right to develop it.

“Bishop Tungsten submitted only four of the five required progress reports and two of the reports were filed following warnings from Commission staff that they were overdue. Based on staff’s review of the application for extension, as well as the four progress reports submitted under the preliminary permit, Bishop Tungsten has not demonstrated that it has carried out activities under the permit in good faith and with reasonable diligence. The progress reports do not contain evidence of agency consultation, studies performed, or other specific information evidencing progress toward the development of a license application. Rather, the information provided in each of the progress reports is very similar, with each noting an ongoing search for the best discharge site based upon favorable site access. The final two staff reports reference studies being conducted for the Pine Creek Mine project and state that portions of those studies will be used to prepare a license application. However, there is no evidence of planning activities for completing the requisite Notice of Intent to File an Application for a New License and Pre-Application Document, choosing a licensing process, or conducting the required consultation to support a development application.”

Pine Creek Mine and Bishop Tungsten have the same mailing address and are both controlled by Lynn Goodfellow, FERC wrote. Beginning in 2001, Pine Creek Mine held three consecutive preliminary permits for its project. On March 20, 2014, commission staff denied Pine Creek Mine an extension of its third preliminary permit term, and on July 17, 2014, the commission denied Pine Creek Mine’s request for rehearing.

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.