3 Relicensing Process

Administrative process bores most people, notably excepting licensees and attorneys.  While millions of people are passionate about their local rivers, few are willing to undertake the time to engage in the formal license proceeding.  Still, citizen participation is rewarding, given the prospect of contributing to restoration of flows, installation of fish passage, protection of riparian lands, and new recreation access.  Whether you achieve your objective in a final licensing decision turns largely on how well you use, indeed direct, each process step (such as an opportunity to submit evidence) to advance that objective.

As a current license approaches its sunset, the licensee must decide whether to seek to renew the license.  With few exceptions, the licensee does so and, two years before expiration of the existing license, files a new license application for FERC’s approval.  Since a new license is a recommitment of the public waters, FERC approves or rejects that application only after an adjudicatory proceeding where it provides public notice and hears and considers comments (including evidence and argument) from the licensee, as well as agencies, conservation groups, property owners, and all other participants.  Thus, not less than five years before expiration, an existing licensee for a project must notify FERC of its intent whether to seek a new license.

Section 3.1 describes the purpose of relicensing, which is to enable FERC to choose among the permissible outcomes to serve the public interest.  Section 3.2 states the fundamental elements of the licensing process, preparatory to our detailed discussion of the Integrated Licensing Process, Traditional Licensing Process, and Alternative Licensing Process in Sections 4-6.