Enviros sound alarm on upcoming changes in licensing rules

New hydropower relicensing rules due as early as next week are worrying environmentalists who say the proposals will undercut the public-comment process -- particularly for more than 100 existing hydropower licensing proposals. The Hydropower Reform Coalition, which represents 130 national and local advocacy groups, is concerned that rules will be labeled "interim final" or "final," instead of "proposed." That, the coalitions says, could hamper the public's ability to contribute to the rulemaking process. In a 10-page letter to agencies crafting the rules, the coalition says the public comment period for an interim final rule "is not meaningful as it is under proposed rules because the rule is final. "The rules will fundamentally change the rights and responsibilities of stakeholders in the hydropower licensing process from the day they are published in final form, thus they will be hard to undo or significantly alter in any way after that date, even if they are called interim," the coalition letter says.

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