Orchard City's hopes for a hydropower project at its water treatment plant inflow are tip-toeing through federal regulations that pose a quandary — obvious dangers which may be disguising as possible opportunity.
The town board has spent $20,000 ($10,000 from a grant and $10,000 town matching funds) to prepare a 100-page application for a federal hydropower permit.
Now, new federal rules have caused the trustees to balk at submitting the $200-per-page document because the rules could change the hydropower game that was being played when Orchard City first looked at the idea over two years ago.
At stake are three issues, as discussed by the board at its Aug. 14 meeting.
• Issue number one is FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The town's application is for a FERC permission. But the agency, considered heavy-handed, is being phased out by new regulations. To file now and win FERC approval for its hydro plant would wed the town forever to the FERC bureaucracy — something to be avoided if at all possible in the estimation of trustees.
• Issue number two concerns the new rules themselves. If signed into law, they would allow the town to build a much larger hydropower unit than had been planned. That could increase revenue generated, depending on outcome of a state law and a lawsuit against DMEA's energy supplier, Tri-State, explained Don Suppes, mayor. But waiting for new laws to take full effect could add years to the project's already long delayed construction.
• Issue number three is the $10,000 grant that paid for the 100-page application. The grant was to help prepare a submission for a FERC permit. If the town now chooses not do that in order to qualify under the new rules, will the town have to give the $10,000 back?
That question will be discussed with the Telluride-based consultant who created the 100-page application, and it will be "run by" the town's attorney, who is also the attorney for DMEA.
The town board delayed any decision for at least a month until it can ask some more questions of the experts.blog comments powered by Disqus