September 2014

Monthly Archive

FERC Notice of Northfield Mountain expansion request, and Public Comment period

Posted by on 05 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight, GDF-Suez FirstLight, Motion to Intervene, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, Public Comment period

On September 4, 2014, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the following Notice of Application for FirstLight Hydro Generating Company’s request to expand operations at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project, P-2485-065. Public COMMENTS, MOTIONS TO INTERVENE, and PROTEST filings will be accepted by FERC for 30 Days from their September 4, 2014 Notice.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION

FirstLight Hydro Generating Company Project No. 2485-065

NOTICE OF APPLICATION ACCEPTED FOR FILING, SOLICITING COMMENTS, MOTIONS TO INTERVENE, AND PROTESTS

(September 4, 2014)

Take notice that the following hydroelectric application has been filed with the Commission and is available for public inspection:

a. Type of Application: Application for Temporary Amendment of Minimum and Maximum Reservoir Elevation Requirement

b. Project No.: 2485-065

c. Date Filed: August 8, 2014

d. Applicant: FirstLight Hydro Generating Company (Firstlight)

e. Name of Project: Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Project

f. Location: The project is located on the east side of the Connecticut River, in the towns of Northfield and Erving, in Franklin County, Massachusetts.

g. Filed Pursuant to: Federal Power Act, 16 USC 791(a)-825(r).

h. Applicant Contact: Mr. John Howard, Director of FERC Compliance, FirstLight Hydro Generating Company, 99 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA 01360. Phone (413) 659-4489.

i. FERC Contact: Mr. Christopher Chaney, (202) 502-6778, or christopher.chaney@ferc.gov.

j. Deadline for filing comments, motions to intervene, protests, and recommendations is 30 days from the issuance date of this notice by the Commission. The Commission strongly encourages electronic filing. Please file motions to intervene, protests, comments, or recommendations using the Commission’s eFiling system at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling.asp. Commenters can submit brief comments up to 6,000 characters, without prior registration, using the eComment system at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp. You must include your name and contact information at the end of your comments. For assistance, please contact FERC Online Support at FERCOnlineSupport@ferc.gov, (866) 208-3676 (toll free), or (202) 502-8659 (TTY). In lieu of electronic filing, please send a paper copy to: Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20426. Please include the project number (P-2485-065) on any comments, motions to intervene, protests, or recommendations filed.
k. Description of Request: FirstLight is seeking temporary authorization to modify the upper reservoir’s upper and lower water surface elevation limits from 1000.5 and 938 feet, to 1004.5 and 920 feet, respectively. FirstLight proposes to use the additional storage capacity between December 1, 2014, and March 31, 2014. According to FirstLight approval of changes in the water surface elevations would result in an increase in the maximum daily generation from 8,475 megawatt-hours (MWh) to 10,645 MWh.

l. Locations of the Application: A copy of the application is available for inspection and reproduction at the Commission’s Public Reference Room, located at 888 First Street, NE, Room 2A, Washington, DC 20426, or by calling (202) 502-8371. This filing may also be viewed on the Commission’s website at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/elibrary.asp. Enter the docket number excluding the last three digits in the docket number field to access the document (i.e. P-2485). You may also register online at http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/esubscription.asp to be notified via email of new filings and issuances related to this or other pending projects. For assistance, call 1-866-208- 3676 or e-mail FERCOnlineSupport@ferc.gov, for TTY, call (202) 502-8659. A copy is also available for inspection and reproduction at the address in item (h) above.

m. Individuals desiring to be included on the Commission’s mailing list should so indicate by writing to the Secretary of the Commission.

n. Comments, Protests, or Motions to Intervene: Anyone may submit comments, a protest, or a motion to intervene in accordance with the requirements of Rules of Practice and Procedure, 18 CFR 385.210, .211, .214. In determining the appropriate action to take, the Commission will consider all protests or other comments filed, but only those who file a motion to intervene in accordance with the Commission’s Rules may become a party to the proceeding. Any comments, protests, or motions to intervene must be received on or before the specified comment date for the particular application.

o. Filing and Service of Responsive Documents: Any filing must (1) bear in all capital letters the title “COMMENTS”, “PROTEST”, or “MOTION TO INTERVENE” as applicable; (2) set forth in the heading the name of the applicant and the project number of the application to which the filing responds; (3) furnish the name, address, and telephone number of the person protesting or intervening; and (4) otherwise comply with the requirements of 18 CFR 385.2001 through 385.2005. All comments, motions to intervene, or protests must set forth their evidentiary basis and otherwise comply with the requirements of 18 CFR 4.34(b). All comments, motions to intervene, or protests should relate to project works which are the subject of the license surrender. Agencies may obtain copies of the application directly from the applicant. A copy of any protest or motion to intervene must be served upon each representative of the applicant specified in the particular application. If an intervener files comments or documents with the Commission relating to the merits of an issue that may affect the responsibilities of a particular resource agency, they must also serve a copy of the document on that resource agency. A copy of all other filings in reference to this application must be accompanied by proof of service on all persons listed in the service list prepared by the Commission in this proceeding, in accordance with 18 CFR 4.34(b) and 385.2010.

Kimberly D. Bose,
Secretary.

The Hidden Costs of Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage

Posted by on 01 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: Connecticut River, Connecticut River ecosystem, ecosystem, Entrainment, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FirstLight, GDF-Suez FirstLight, Haddam nuclear plant, Ludington Pumped Storage Plant, MA Division of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS, Northfield Mountain, Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Station, resident river fish, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS, Vermont Yankee, Yankee Atomic, Yankee Rowe Nuclear Plant

Copyright © 2014 by Karl Meyer

The hidden costs of Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage: after Vermont Yankee closes, FirstLight wants to ramp up pumping and profits

(a version of this piece first appeared in the Greenfield Recorder, August 23, 2014)

Vermont Yankee, the last of the region’s nuclear plants, will close in December. In response, GDF-Suez FirstLight’s Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage plant is looking to change its stripes. On June 27th it applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a “temporary” license amendment to allow it broad new freedoms to consume unprecedented amounts of the Connecticut River from December 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015. That plan would add an additional 22 feet of pumping capacity to its 5-billion gallon reservoir, sucked directly from the river. More pumping is certain to create more riverbank erosion and draw more silt into that reservoir. It will also kill untold thousands of the public’s resident river fish.

The unprecedented request defies logic. Northfield was built specifically to use energy from local nuclear plants to push water up to its reservoir. In its request FirstLight also cited the closing of the 330 megawatt Salem Harbor coal plant as rationale for why it should be allowed to pump more, and grow larger. FirstLight Hydro Compliance Director John Howard stated, “The requested increase in operational flexibility is needed to provide ISO-New England with additional resources to deal with a potential shortage of energy in the Northeast this winter.” However Andrea Donlon of the Connecticut River Watershed Council found that ISO-New England, the grid’s Independent System Operator, had made no requests concerning Northfield, stating it expected to have adequate energy supply this winter.

FirstLight’s application failed to mention is that it is shutting down its own 135 megawatt Mt. Tom Coal Plant this October. Rather than the “peaking energy” and “emergency resource” plant it’s been since coming on-line in 1972, Northfield seems to be implying it will somehow serve as a replacement for those 24/7 “baseload” energy plants. The other logic-defying reality is that it would be consuming more baseload energy to create more brief pulses of high-priced energy to re-sell to us at “spot” market prices.

Northfield was fashioned during the nuclear build-out in the late 1960s to use the excess power generated at night from nuclear plants in Rowe, Vernon, VT and Haddam, CT to gulp giant slugs of the Connecticut up to its reservoir. When demand “peaked” during mornings or late afternoons it would release that stored nuclear energy—our river, back to its bed through massive turbines. It could produce some 1,000 megawatts in just minutes, great for short-term needs and emergencies. But it could only store enough water to produce 6-8 hours of electricity, total. Depleted, it then waited to re-start the process.

In her book “Inventing Niagara” Ginger Strand described the inefficiencies and rationale behind selling pumped storage electricity to the public as a textbook case of corporate capitalism: buy low, sell high. Northfield has never been a renewable hydro source. It is inefficient and operates at a net-energy loss. While its impacts on the river ecosystem are profound, its brief, staggering pulses of violent, high-volume output are no more efficient than that of legacy electric producers, just more short-term profitable.

Northfield only makes sense while it operates as a designated nuclear adjunct, run on the excesses of the region’s short-lived and now-shuttered nuclear fleet. But now it wants to soldier on, utilizing imported power and climate-changing resources. Meanwhile the river pays an as-yet unstudied price–as the public is asked to accept yet more “peak” energy, repackaged and re-sold at “peak” prices culled from bidding boards on the “spot” market.

FirstLight’s FERC request sparked official replies from entities involved in the current 5-year relicensing of Northfield. The National Marine Fisheries Service’s William McDavitt noted to John Howard “the timing of this temporary amendment application is a bit unfortunate as the proposed change could bear some impact on proposed 3.1.2 Northfield Mountain/Turners Falls Operations Impact on Existing Erosion and Potential Bank Instability. Were the proposed changes to go into effect, it seems as though the duration that NMPS pumps or generates could be changed.”

MA Fish and Wildlife made no objections to the up-rate, but the Watershed Council noted that fish kills there–known as “entrainment”, are worrisome, “Currently the entrainment impact of the NMPS facility during the winter is not well understood, which the pending appeal by USFWS regarding the sufficiency of FirstLight’s proposed entrainment study well illustrates,” further noting, “So until such time as we have a much better understanding of the entrainment impacts of NMPS, it seems inappropriate to request additional pumping capacity.”

In 1995 the owners of the Ludington(MI) Pumped Storage Plant agreed to a $172 million dollar settlement for its killing of the public’s fish across the previous two decades. There, according to the Ludington Daily News, they at least had the benefit of a one-time study showing LPSP “in a single year, killed 440,000 salmon and trout, 85,000 perch and millions of forage fish that served as food for valuable game.”

Since 1972 it’s been a free ride up at Northfield.

Karl Meyer is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.