Why Utah pulled out of FERC Process

The Utah Board of Water Resources pulled their application to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) 2019 for a hydropower license for the Lake Powell Pipeline. Therefore, those studies have stopped. They have spent over $35 million on all the FERC required environments studies.  But, the outdated studies will be used to make decisions, and some will be updated for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that is now open for public comment. The story of how FERC became involved and Utah pulling out of the FERC process is described below.

On February 7, 2008, The Utah Board of Water Resources was granted a Preliminary Permit by FERC. Project No, P-12966, for three years to study and investigate the feasibility of the proposed project. There were ten years, and the studies were still not considered complete. (see article)

On December 1, 2015, the Utah Board of Water Resources released the Draft Study Reports and Preliminary Licensing Proposal (PLP) for the Lake Powell Pipeline Project (FERC Project No. P- 12966).

FERC gave a Notice of Acceptance that the studies are ready for Environmental Analysis on December 11, 2017. However, the state stopped the process until jurisdiction issues on the pipeline alignment could be settled. The state wanted FERC to have jurisdiction over the whole pipeline.  However, FERC made the decision that they only had jurisdiction of the hydropower plants on the pipeline. The comment period started again, and the deadline for comments was November 19, 2018.

FERC denied the state’s petition on FERC having jurisdiction over the whole length of the pipeline, September 20, 2018. They explained their decision as follows:

“Furthermore, there are sound policy reasons supporting this limited interpretation of our licensing jurisdiction.  Large water delivery projects such as the Lake Powell Pipeline Project arguably present attempts to use the Commission’s hydropower authority to construct large amounts of pipeline that are unrelated to power production, and perhaps to take advantage of the eminent domain authority and federal preemption of inconsistent state requirements that a Commission license provides.  They could also involve the Commission in regional controversies that are not directly within the scope of its responsibilities.  By not asserting jurisdiction over these large water delivery projects, the Commission leaves to other state and federal authorities decisions regarding the purpose of and need for the water delivery project, the preferred route for the pipeline, and its cost and financial feasibility; matters that are far removed from the limited purpose of the hydroelectric power developments to be located in and along the pipeline. For all of these reasons, we find that the Commission’s licensing jurisdiction is limited to the discrete hydroelectric facilities to be located in and along the water delivery pipeline of the Lake Powell Pipeline Project, and does not extend to the water delivery pipeline itself.  We, therefore, deny the petition.”

For these reasons, Utah pulled out of the FERC process. Then Utah asked The Department of Interior to do the DEIS that has started in 2020…

If the project EIS is approved with a Record of Decision in early 2020, they will finalize the design and Pipeline construction starts; it will take at least four years to complete. Water deliveries expected to begin after construction is completed

To see all the Lake Powell Pipeline Environmental Studies FERC Documents, studies and comments 2008-2019 search FERC on our CSU website in Library.

Also see all the Lake Powell Pipeline FERC studies and Comments by going to FERC’s elibrary  Click Here and put in Docket Search- P-12966