Last month Randy Kesling updated you on the continuing saga of the pump storage project proposed by FreedomWorks, LLC for the Big Run area of Tucker County. You may recall that the Forest Service rejected FreedomWorks’ application for a Special Use Permit (SUP) to conduct feasibility studies on National Forest land due to the inconsistency of the studies and the overall project with the Forest Plan. FreedomWorks contested the denial in two letters filed on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) project docket shortly after the Forest Service denied the Special Use Permit.
Since the publication of last month’s issue of the Voice, FreedomWorks seems to have reconsidered its position. In a letter filed on the FERC docket on April 12, 2019, FreedomWorks withdrew its motion of March 19, 2019 protesting the Forest Service’s denial of its Special Use Permit application. FreedomWorks cited communications with Senate Energy Committee staffers, who apparently informed FreedomWorks that the Forest Service permit denial could not be appealed. Also on April 12, 2019, FERC brought the formal process to a close by issuing an order denying FreedomWorks’ application for a preliminary permit. FERC cited the Forest Service’s Special Use Permit denial as the reason for its denial of the preliminary permit.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s denial means that the feasibility studies for the project cannot go forward. At this point, the project appears to be dead. It was clear from the beginning that this project was ill-sited and would have had unacceptable impacts on the environment and the tourism economy of Tucker County. We are pleased that the responsible federal agencies recognized the project’s flaws and stopped it. While we understand the need for renewable energy storage, as well as the need for economic opportunities in the communities of the Highlands, such development should not occur at the expense of the natural qualities that make the Highlands special.
Score a rare win for the environment, and let’s keep our fingers crossed that this project does not get resurrected!