Compliance Culture

By Kris Polly

As owners and operators of hydropower facilities well know, compliance with the regulations of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other federal and state agencies is a major and crucial task. Building a culture of regulatory compliance within an organization is a key to planning and long-term success. This month, we bring you a number of articles on this important topic. 

In December 2021, FERC released a final rule amending its regulations on the safety of water power projects and project works, which introduced two tiers of public safety inspections, codified existing guidance on owners’ dam safety programs;, and updated regulations related to public safety incident reporting. It also released four new draft chapters to its Engineering Guidelines for the Evaluation of Hydropower Projects. In this month’s cover story, we speak with Tom Fitzgerald, the western regional manager for dam engineering at Schnabel Engineering, about what the new rules mean. 

Next, we speak with Kim Hansen, a senior engineering consultant with Kleinschmidt Associates, who has conducted more than 100 Part 12 safety inspections over his career, about how the new FERC rule will affect Part 12 inspections from both the independent consultant’s and the owner’s perspectives. 

We also speak with Max Spiker, the Bureau of Reclamation’s senior advisor for hydropower, about the sometimes-confusing topic of how Reclamation’s Lease of Power Privilege program relates to FERC regulations. It is not always immediately apparent which of the two agencies— Reclamation or FERC—has jurisdiction over nonfederal development on Reclamation project facilities. Mr. Spiker tells us about how such questions are resolved and about the streamlined lease of power privilege authorization process. 

HData is a tech company that has developed a platform that uses regulatory data to automatically generate and file FERC reports and can also provide data about how a regulated entity compares to its peers across the industry. HData founder and CEO Hudson Hollister tells us about the company’s current offerings and future plans. 

We also speak with Tom Cuthbert, the chief technology officer of Atlanta-based modular hydropower manufacturer Emrgy, about how the company has developed, piloted, and commercialized a unique hydropower device that can be easily deployed in water conveyance canals and channels. 

Eddie Rich, the CEO of the UK-based International Hydropower Association (IHA), tells us about the organization’s vision of a clean energy future supported by sustainable hydropower and about how IHA promoted that vision at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP26. 

We close with a Hydro Law article on FERC compliance by Chuck Sensiba, Hallie Meushaw, and Elizabeth McCormick of law firm Troutman Pepper, which highlights the importance for owners and operators of FERC hydropower licenses to fully understand their legal obligations and rights related to FERC compliance. 

Compliance with the regulations of FERC and other federal and state agencies is not simple, but it is an important part of guaranteeing the safe maintenance and operation of hydropower facilities. I hope that you find this issue of Hydro Leader, which approaches the topic from many angles, to be enlightening. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at