The Commission issues licenses and exemptions for hydropower projects under the provisions of the Federal Power Act  (FPA). To surrender a license or exemption, the licensee/exemptee must file a request with the Commission. The Division of Hydropower Administration and Compliance processes applications to surrender a project license or exemption to ensure that safety and environmental concerns are addressed before allowing the project to be removed from federal jurisdiction.

Surrendering a License

To surrender a license, the licensee must prepare an application in accordance with section 6.1 of the Commission’s regulations.  Each application for license surrender must include:

  1. The reason for surrendering the license.
  2. A copy of the license and all amendments associated with the project.

In addition, a surrender application for a major project must be executed and filed in the same form and manner as the license application.

All licensees filing a surrender application with the Commission must address issues such as:

  • Dam and public safety
  • Environmental resources

The licensee must identify all project features:

  • Dam and reservoir
  • Power plant
  • Transmission lines
  • Recreation features, etc.
  • How they will be disposed

Licensees should review articles that address environmental issues and consult with the appropriate resource agencies before filing the application with the Commission.

Surrender applications for constructed projects should include a plan for decommissioning the project.  Decommissioning can include leaving project features in-place for other uses, or removal of project features and site restoration.  The plan should address any dam safety or environmental concerns that could remain after the license is surrendered.

If project works have been constructed on federal land, the licensee will be required to restore the lands to a condition satisfactory to the Department having supervision over such lands; annual charges will continue until such restoration has been satisfactorily completed and the surrender becomes effective.

Once the surrender application is complete, the Commission will issue a public notice with a minimum of 30-day comment period before acting.  The Commission will only approve a surrender of license after the licensee has fulfilled its obligations under the license and/or as established by the Commission.

Surrendering an Exemption

To surrender an exemption, the exemptee must file a petition with the Commission in accordance with sections 4.95 (Conduit Exemption) or 4.102 (Exemption) of the Commission’s regulations. The petition must include:

  1. The reason for surrendering the exemption.
  2. A description of how the project works and lands will be disposed.
    •  For example, if the exemptee plans to remove the project works, it must file a plan and schedule outlining the removal and restoration of the site to assure public and environmental safety.  If the project works are to remain in-place, the exemptee must describe the measures it will take to disconnect the generating equipment from the electric grid.

For fully and partially constructed projects, prior to filing a petition with the Commission, the exemptee must consult with the Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies in accordance with section 4.38 of the Commission’s regulations regarding the disposition and restoration of the project works and lands.

For constructed projects, the Commission will issue a public notice of receipt of the petition for a minimum comment period of 30 days.  The Commission may prescribe conditions under the exemption that must be fulfilled by the exemptee prior to the surrender becoming effective.  In addition, the Commission and the Federal and state fish and wildlife agencies may prescribe conditions with respect to the disposition of such project works and restoration of project lands for constructed projects that must be fulfilled prior to the surrender becoming effective.

If the project occupies federal lands or reservations, the exemptee must concurrently notify the Federal agency having supervision over such lands of the petition to surrender its exemption and of the steps it will take to restore the affected U.S. lands or reservations.

For unconstructed projects, the exemption will remain in effect through the thirtieth day after the Commission issues a public notice of receipt, unless the Commission issues an order to the contrary. Applications involving the site of the unconstructed surrendered exemption may be filed on the next business day.

Each application for a license or exemption surrender is unique to the project. For additional information on license and exemption surrenders, please refer to the Commission's eLibrary link, and search using keywords such as surrender and decommission.

This page was last updated on January 30, 2024