AP&T seeks 'alternative' licensing for Connelly
Alaska Power and Telephone is pursuing the alternative licensing process (ALP) for the Connelly Lake project despite the Haines Borough expressing support for a more rigorous licensing process.
The choice of process must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The Haines Borough Assembly voted last summer to endorse the integrated licensing process (ILP), which has stricter deadlines and demands more FERC involvement than the ALP.
FERC last fall rejected AP&T’s request to use the traditional licensing process, the most fluid and fast-tracked of the three options.
AP&T project manager Glen Martin said this week the alternative process is more flexible than the integrated one, especially when it comes to deadlines. “The ILP is not flexible for anyone, period,” Martin said.
“In my opinion, the public has a greater chance to be involved in the ALP than the ILP. As far as the community feeling they will have more of a voice in the ILP, due to its inflexibility it may be they will have less of a voice than they believe,” he said.
Martin said the ALP allows agencies and stakeholders to work collaboratively, and the ALP would be as transparent as the stakeholders wish.
Danny Gonce, AP&T’s power manager for Haines, said he thinks education is key to getting the public on board with the ALP. “We feel that we need to do some education of the public on the different processes. We believe that people misunderstand how the processes work, and we feel that the ILP, which is a very strict timeline, doesn’t give us the flexibility for funding that we need to make the project happen.”
Mayor Stephanie Scott said she met with Gonce last week, when he informed her AP&T would be pursuing the ALP. Scott went on record supporting the ILP last summer.
Scott said at this point she “isn’t concerned” about what process AP&T is pursuing, as FERC has indicated it will not move forward with any licensing process until AP&T gets permission to construct in the bald eagle preserve.
“They can request the ALP process, but they are probably going to get the same answer back from FERC,” Scott said.
As for building in the eagle preserve, Martin and Gonce both said the obstacle keeping the state from granting permission is the absence of a “yes” of support from the borough.
“The one thing presently holding up the state is that the borough has not come out in support of the Connelly Lake hydroelectric project. This is what the state has told us in regards to permitting this project,” Martin said.
Scott confirmed the assembly hasn’t spoken for or against the project, possibly because of a lack of information. “It’s in such a state of exploration and preliminary studies that there is much science to be done and much science to be digested,” Scott said.
The issue of support could come before the borough as a resolution, or as a permit application to build in the preserve, Gonce said.
Martin said FERC developed the ILP to streamline the relicensing of projects, which was causing a 10-year backlog in the Lower 48. The strict deadlines and complete FERC involvement help move the relicensing process along as quickly and efficiently as possible, he said.
For new projects like Connelly Lake, Martin said, the ILP falls short because certain agencies (such as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) are not allowed to have formal dispute resolution – only the mandatory agencies have that authority under the ILP. The ILP also does not provide a formal avenue for requesting additional information after the licensing application is filed with FERC, Martin said.