NEPA requires all federal agencies to analyze the environmental impacts of their actions along with alternatives to those actions. As a Federal agency, FERC is required to prepare an environmental document analyzing the consequences of issuing a license for a hydropower project along with reasonable alternatives to issuing a license. FERC staff’s environmental analysis informs the development of the Commission’s ultimate licensing order. FERC generally prepares an Environmental Assessment (EA) instead of a full Environmental Impact Statement when relicensing an existing hydropower project, although the choice of EA or EIS is case-specific and depends on the complexity of the resource issues to be analyzed.
FERC typically analyzes only three complete alternatives in an environmental document: 1) the applicant’s proposal, 2) FERC staff’s preferred alternative, and 3) the no-action alternative. Other proposed alternatives to the proposed action are broken apart into components (e.g. fish passage alternatives or alternative instream flow regimes) and analyzed in the context of FERC staff’s preferred alternative.