|BILL AS INTRODUCED||2007-2008|
Introduced by Senator Miller of Chittenden District, Senator Doyle of Washington District and Senator Cummings of Washington District
Subject: Public service; small hydro
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to require the public service board to develop recommendations regarding how to simplify and make predictable and timely the process by which small hydroelectric-generating facilities may be authorized. It proposes that the report: recommend how to identify small hydroelectric facilities, address permit application requirements, address multiple uses of water bodies that include small hydroelectric projects, and assess the overall advantages of these systems. It proposes to require the secretary of natural resources to report on simplifying the agency’s procedure for completing water quality certification review of small hydroelectric projects. This report shall: recommend how to identify a small hydroelectric facility; address bypass flows; recommend rule changes that may be necessary to assure consistent standards for dissolved oxygen; address seasonal flows in bypasses; address the need for new fish or flow studies for small hydroelectric facilities, while assuring the studies will be affordable; address other technical aspects of small hydroelectric facilities; address how the agency may provide critical information to potential developers early in the application process; propose regulatory changes that would assure a consistent policy with regard to fish passage at all existing dams, regardless of dam use; and identify certain aesthetics-related amendments to the water quality standards. The bill proposes to build on a study completed in 2002 for the agency of transportation in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop specified information on minimum flows of ungauged streams that will be applicable for small hydroelectric facilities. The bill proposes that Vermont state standards for flows be consistent with all aspects of the United States Fish and Wildlife Interim Flow Policy. Finally, it provides that for purposes of net metering, a union or district school net metering facility shall be considered in the same group net metering system with buildings of its member municipalities that are located within the service area of the same electric company that serves the facility.
AN ACT RELATING TO FACILITATING THE DEVELOPMENT OF ELECTRICITY FROM SMALL HYDROELECTRIC PROJECTS
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD REPORT ON PERMITTING SMALL
Prior to December 15, 2008, the public service board shall report to the house committees on natural resources and energy and on fish, wildlife and water resources and to the senate committee on natural resources and energy with a recommendation for a simple, predictable, timely, and environmentally sound process, other than the process set forth in subsection 248(j) of Title 30, for issuing a certificate of public good under section 248 of Title 30 for small hydroelectric projects that are not eligible for a net metering permit under public service board rule 5.100. In developing the report, the board shall consult with the agency of natural resources, appropriate federal officials, and other interested parties. The report shall:
(1) Recommend criteria for determining what constitutes a small hydroelectric facility, including the allowable maximum amount of output capacity at the facility and the type of eligible facilities, natural features, or other sites.
(2) Address permit application requirements, including ownership of the facility, interconnection, and structural safety of a small hydroelectric project.
(3) Address additional uses of a small hydroelectric project such as flood control; fish and wildlife habitat; recreation; water supply; historic resource; and structural grade control for infrastructure, roads, bridges, and houses.
(4) Assess whether the existing regulatory process for small hydroelectric power applications under 30 V.S.A. § 248 adequately addresses the advantages of existing uses of dams for purposes such as recreation, fish and wildlife, water supply, and flood control; the advantages of avoiding negative off-site environmental impacts such as acid rain, mercury deposition, and climate change; and the benefits of distributed generation, grid safety, and the economic development and job creation through development of renewable resources; or whether the process focuses too much on the on-site impacts of a proposed development.
Sec. 2. AGENCY OF NATURAL RESOURCES REPORT ON WATER
QUALITY CERTIFICATION FOR SMALL HYDROELECTRIC PROJECTS
(a) Prior to December 15, 2008, the secretary of natural resources shall report to the house committee on fish, wildlife and water resources and the senate committee on natural resources and energy with a recommendation for a simple, predictable, and environmentally sound procedure for completing a water quality certification review, as required by Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act, of small hydroelectric projects. The report shall:
(1) Recommend, after consultation with the public service board, criteria for determining what constitutes a small hydroelectric facility, including the allowable maximum amount of output capacity at the facility and the type of eligible facilities, natural features, or other sites.
(2) Address bypass flows for small hydroelectric projects.
(3) Address and recommend any changes in rules that may be necessary to assure that the state has consistent standards with regard to dissolved oxygen for both wastewater treatment and hydroelectric purposes.
(4) Address seasonal flows in bypasses at run‑of‑river facilities.
(5) Address the need for new fish or flow studies for small hydroelectric projects, while assuring that these studies will be scientifically valid and affordable.
(6) Address the use of flashboards to increase upstream flooding.
(7) Address measures to prevent fish from entering turbines and penstocks.
(8) Include an analysis of the existing permitting process for small hydroelectric projects.
(9) Address how the agency may provide potential developers, early in the process, with standard water quality requirements that are likely to be in effect with regard to the project in question.
(10) Propose changes in existing regulatory programs that would be necessary if the state were to institute a consistent policy in regard to fish passage at all existing dams, regardless of the use for the dam.
(11) Identify amendments to the water quality standards that would be necessary in order to assure that the aesthetics component of the standards may be met by a 7Q10 flow or by ½ inch of water passing over an existing dam, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of making these amendments.
(b) The agency of natural resources shall build on the study developed in 2002 by the agency of transportation and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to develop information on when minimum flows of water are exceeded 80, 85, 90, and 95 percent of the time, and information that correlates exceedance flows with aquatic base flow data from USGS long-term stream flow gauges in a manner that allows the information to be used for flow studies for small hydroelectric projects.
(c) The agency of natural resources shall revise its procedures for determining minimum stream flows in a manner that will assure that when a minimum of 25 years of USGS gauging records exist at or near a project site on a river that is basically free-flowing, the agency shall recommend that the aquatic base flow (ABF) release for all times of the year be equivalent to the median August flow for the period of record unless superseded by spawning and incubation flow recommendations.
Sec. 3. 30 V.S.A. § 219a(g)(5) is added to read:
(5) A group net metering system may consist only of customers that are located within the service area of the same electric company. Various buildings owned by municipalities, including water and wastewater districts, fire districts, villages, school districts, and towns, may constitute a group net metering system. A union or district school facility shall be considered in the same group net metering system with buildings of its member municipalities that are located within the service area of the same electric company that serves the facility. If it determines that it would promote the general good, the board shall permit a noncontiguous group of net metering customers to comprise a group net metering system.
The Vermont General Assembly
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