Mass Rivers Pushes Back On Hydropower Proposal

This past week, Mass Rivers organized a sign-on letter opposing updates to the state hydropower dam regulations that could potentially harm rivers. The sign-on letter was supported by 70 organizations from across New England.

The Issue

Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) put forward a proposal to change state hydropower regulations so that hydropower generators would have to undergo just one review to receive a lifetime certification as a river-friendly facility. This certification would entitle them to a lifetime of benefits from the state as providers of “environmentally sustainable energy.”

DOER has proposed to remove the requirement that generators obtain a recertification from the Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) in order to retain their status as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) eligible facility.

Removing a requirement for recertification from LIHI would effectively undermine a project operator’s motivation to improve their systems and minimize their environmental impact over time. A qualified project would effectively receive a lifetime qualification regardless of any environmental changes or technological advances that would prompt updated conditions to protect river systems.

Being certified by LIHI means the hydropower facility must pass rigorous standards for river flows, water quality, fish passage and protection, watershed protection, threatened and endangered species protection, cultural resource protection, and recreation. LIHI conducts annual compliance reviews, and recertifications every 5-10 years allow for an updated assessment of changing environmental conditions, stakeholder input, and agency input. Nearly 65% of projects that recertify contain updated conditions that are new or different from a previous certification. Rivers are dynamic ecological systems, and the recertification process ensures that negative environmental impacts continue to be minimized in the manner consistent with the Green Communities Act.

We now await a response from DOER to address our comments and we will keep everyone updated as this issue progresses. Thank you to everyone who submitted their own individual comments on this proposed change as well. The rivers appreciate your advocacy!