Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt gave hydroelectric power plants the Trump administration's seal of approval, as he continued his tour of New England Wednesday.
“EPA will continue to work with our partners in the states to make responsible use of our country’s tremendous natural resources,” Pruitt said after touring FirstLight Energy's Northfield Mountain Generating Station in Massachusetts with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Neil Chatterjee.
The tour followed Pruitt's visit Tuesday to New Hampshire, where he said his agency is working with the Energy Department and others to help the state use timber waste, referred to as biomass, as a renewable energy resource. Wednesday marked the second day Pruitt played up a renewable energy resource that has administration support.
The EPA said the Trump administration is "committed to meeting U.S. energy needs by utilizing hydroelectric power." The hydroelectric facility uses the Connecticut River to power more than one million houses in the region.
Pruitt said he and Chatterjee "saw firsthand the way this facility uses innovative technology to power the region.”
The company that owns the Northfield facility was called upon during last month's winter storm by the FERC-overseen New England grid operator to provide power to the grid amid soaring demand for electricity for heating. As the Connecticut power plant ramped up, the water level at its dam fell below required levels.
However, FERC, which licenses hydropower dams, said in a letter that it would not take punitive action against the company since the power was requested by the Independent System Operator and the company consulted with necessary agencies.
The letter underscored a key facet of President Trump's infrastructure plan, which calls for streamlining environmental rules and giving one agency the final authority in issuing a permit or license for a project. The FirstLight facility at Candlewood Lake was required to file with FERC, Interior Department wildlife regulators and state offices to ensure it did not violate the parameters of its FERC license during the emergency weather event.
Trump's "one agency, one permit" concept would designate "a lead federal agency" to meet a two-year deadline of issuing one final decision for a major project.
The issue of grid reliability also was raised during Wednesday's visit, according to John Shue, a senior vice president at FirstLight.
Pruitt also visited EPA’s Region 1 office that covers New England to discuss toxic cleanup at Superfund sites in the region and its efforts to work with state and local emergency responders on protecting communities from dangerous chemical accidents.