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August 14, 2015

No Review for Shuttered Plant's Application to Withdraw 160 MGD from Seneca Lake

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced this week that Greenidge Generation LLC has applied for a water withdrawal permit for its shuttered Greenidge Generating Station in Dresden, New York. Greenidge, a subsidiary of Atlas Holdings, is seeking a permit to take up to 159,897,000 gallons of water a day from Seneca Lake. That is more than is used by all the other users of the lake combined. Comments on the Greenidge application are due September 11, 2015.

Although the DEC notice recognizes that the facility was "was placed in protective lay-up status in 2011" and that the Applicant “is now proposing to re-activate Unit 4 of the facility,” nevertheless, the notice states that the Department has determined that the facility is eligible for a type of permit—an "initial" permit—that is limited to existing water withdrawals. Categorizing the Greenidge application as an application for an initial permit is significant because DEC is granting extremely expedited permitting procedures for "initial" water withdrawal permit applications, and is not conducting SEQRA reviews or coastal zone reviews for such applications. DEC claims that "initial" permits are Type II actions under SEQRA and are therefore exempt from review under SEQRA and the coastal zone laws.

The issue of whether water withdrawal permits issued to existing users can properly be exempted from the requirements of the water withdrawal permitting law, SEQRA, and the coastal zone laws is raised in two cases filed by the Sierra Club and Hudson River Fishermen's Association, Sierra Club and HRFA v. Martens I and Sierra Club and HRFA v. Martens II . I am one of the attorneys working on both cases. The Greenidge application is the first instance in which DEC has attempted to give existing user status to a facility that is not in operation.

Posted by Rachel Treichler on 08/14/15. Updated 04/29/16.



Copyright 2016, Rachel Treichler



About NY Water Law

New York Water Law covers legal developments relating to water usage in New York and in jurisdictions that may be influential in New York. The author, Rachel Treichler, practices law in the Finger Lakes region.
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