KC Pittsfield again rejected by FERC on permit for California hydropower project

The members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Jan. 22 rejected a protest by KC Pittsfield LLC related to a prior rejection by FERC staff of a preliminary permit application for a small hydroelectric project in California.

KC Pittsfield had requested rehearing of a Nov. 4, 2014, staff order dismissing KC Pittsfield’s application for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of the proposed Old Cow Creek Open-Channel Turbines Hydro Project. KC Pittsfield proposed to use project facilities currently licensed to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) for its Kilarc-Cow Creek Project, and for which PG&E’s license surrender application is pending before the commission.

PG&E’s 4.4-MW Kilarc-Cow Creek Project is located on Old Cow Creek and South Cow Creek near the town of Whitmore in Shasta County, California. The project comprises two developments, Kilarc and Cow Creek. KC Pittsfield proposes to use facilities associated with the Kilarc development, which operates as a run-of-river facility.

In July 2012, KC Pittsfield filed an application for a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of developing the Kilarc Open-Channel Turbines Hydro Project. The proposed project would use the existing Kilarc Canal Diversion Dam, as well as the Kilarc Canal, Forebay, Penstock, and Powerhouse. In January 2013, commission staff dismissed the preliminary permit application, explaining that it would not issue a preliminary permit for a project that would use facilities proposed to be surrendered and removed. The order stated that the commission would not accept preliminary permit or development applications for the site until after the commission acts on the surrender proceeding. KC Pittsfield sought rehearing of the dismissal, which the commission denied in April 2013.

On April 18, 2013, the same day the commission issued its rehearing order affirming the dismissal of KC Pittsfield’s July 2012 preliminary permit application, KC Pittsfield filed another preliminary permit application, which it amended on May 6, 2013. The amended application is similar to KC Pittsfield’s dismissed application, with modifications to its characterization of the proposed water resource and the utilized infrastructure. KC Pittsfield stated that its proposed project would use flows “that exceed the flows utilized by the [PG&E] project,” and that it proposes to install new infrastructure, including a diversion, canal, and powerhouse containing two 3-MW conventional turbines, parallel to PG&E’s existing project facilities “unless and until those facilities are decommissioned without being dismantled.” The application states that “[t]he discharge to Old Cow Creek would most likely be located at existing overflow sites along the PG&E’s Kilarc Canal and Forebay.” KC Pittsfield also proposed to install up to 20 kW of open-channel turbine capacity in its proposed canal.

On Nov. 4, 2014, commission staff issued an order dismissing KC Pittsfield’s preliminary permit application. The order explained that, although KC Pittsfield proposed in its April 18 application to install new infrastructure adjacent to the existing PG&E facilities, it would still use structures that are part of the Kilarc Cow Creek Project, namely PG&E’s Kilarc Canal and Forebay. The order concluded that the commission will not accept any future applications that include the possibility of studying an alternative that includes any of PG&E’s facilities. On Nov. 12, 2014, KC Pittsfield filed a timely request for rehearing, which is what the commissioners rejected on Jan. 22.

Among other things, the commissioners disagreed with KC Pittsfield’s claim that commission staff decided to dismiss its preliminary permit application, and only then found a policy that it could “claim had been violated” to justify that decision. The commission’s policy against issuing preliminary permits for projects proposed to be located on, and use, structures that may be subject to a surrender or relicensing proceeding is well-established, the commissioners noted.

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.