If you are new to these issues or need more background information,
please start here instead.
Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC*) is the overarching licensing authority for FirstLight's application for a Federal Power Act (hydro) license, FirstLight also must apply to Massachusetts for a Water Quality Certificate (WQC) (as authorized by Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act) that will then be incorporated into the license issued by the FERC.
This means that whatever "conditions" MA puts in the WQC WILL be included in the FERC license, and FirstLight MUST adhere to them.
This is our best opportunity to make a real difference.
In January 2022, Greening Greenfield asked you to write to the Secretary of the EEA* (Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs) requesting that MassDEP (one of the 6 Departments under EEA, plus 14 other entities):
- hold robust public hearings on FirstLight's application for a Water Quality Certificate.
They have agreed! Good work everyone! See DEP's new web page.
- EEA/DEP host a recorded public information session prior to the hearings, to explain the process to all who are interested;
They have at least partially agreed. There will be such a session. We don't know if it will be recorded. See DEP's new web page.
- EEA create and update a dedicated website to help the public understand and track the progress;
They have agreed! This is excellent news. See DEP's new web page.
- EEA widely advertise these events and resources; and
Remains to be seen. We only found out that the new DEP web page existed because our legislative delegation was kind enough to tell us. And we don't know what plans DEP has for advertising the public meetings, but they have NOT yet set up a way to be added to a mailing list. We think DEP can do better.
- That MEPA be fully involved in the relicensing process, especially as the original license pre-dates the entire 401 process.
We have heard nothing since June, so can only guess no decision has been made?
After FirstLight applies for the WQC, which could be any time now, it will be time to tell EEA / MassDEP what we want to see in that certificate, and ways in which we support or disagree with the provisions proposed in FirstLight's application. But TODAY, our simple ask is to make sure we will all have the opportunity to make those comments about the river and the license. In addition to written comments, we feel public hearings are critical to having our voices heard, and this is a new opportunity to do that. The FORMAL PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD will still probably only be 20 days, per regulation (possibly part of the Trump era changes in the process of being fixed, but not final until spring 2023).
- Thank everyone for what they've done so far - this includes our legislators, but especially DEP;
- Ask DEP to start compiling an email list through which to notify folks when meeting dates are set;
- Ask DEP to add your name to such a list
- Encourage them to record the public information session and all meetings, making them available through their web page;
- Encourage them to widely advertise the existence of the new web page and when public meetings will be held;
- Include Director Tori Kim and continue to urge MEPA involvement;
- Don't send them testimony yet, since it won't be recorded, but start thinking about or preparing testimony to submit, or questions to ask, when the public comment period begins. That will be the time for specifics, and it might be a very brief window.
WHAT COMES NEXT IN THE PROCESS
See Water Quality Certificate graphic of steps
(Click this link, then scroll down)
WRITE YOUR LETTER NOW
Sample letter to DEP/EEA for you to copy and modify.
Send copies to:
- Governor Charlie Baker, state of Massachusetts;
- Commissioner Martin Suuberg, MassDEP;
- Director Tori Kim, MA Environmental Policy Act Office (requesting to have MEPA invoked, (click, then scroll down to "MEPA");
- Members of the Western MA congressional delegation and their staffers - at least your own elected officials.
EARLIER LETTERS TO SEE WHAT OTHERS HAVE EMPHASIZED
- Sample letter 2020 from Western MA legislative delegation to EEA/DEP/Gov
- Sample letter from Peg Hall to EEA/DEP/Gov/MEPA
- Sample letter from Nancy Hazard to EEA/DEP/Gov
AIP - Agreement in Principle
AFLA - Amended Final License Application
CRC - Connecticut River Conservancy
DEP or MassDEP - Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
EEA / EOEEA - Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
EIS - Environmental Impact Statement
FERC - Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
FL - FirstLight Power
FLA - Final License Application
FPA - Federal Power Act
GG - Greening Greenfield
ISO-NE - Independent Systems Operator - New England
MEPA - Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act
NRF - Naturally Routed Flow
PM&E - Protection, Mitigation, & Enhancement
REA - Ready for Environmental Analysis
TF - Turners Falls
USGS - United States Geological Survey (usually used in FirstLight documents for USGS "gage" or "gage flow")
WQC - Water Quality Certificate
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