Sen. Murkowski Introduces Legislation Halting Unfair FERC Fees

Measure Stops FERC Practice of Collecting Land-Use Fees from Hydropower Projects on Non-Fedearl Property

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday introduced legislation to prohibit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) from charging land-use fees for hydropower projects no longer located on federal land. 

“While it’s appropriate for FERC to impose reasonable fees on hydro projects on federal land, once that property is transferred to private or state ownership, the fees should stop. That’s just common sense,” Murkowski said.

The measure, S. 3265, fixes a technicality in federal law that allows FERC to continue to impose land-use fees even when the land at issue has been transferred out of federal ownership. 

Under the Federal Power Act, FERC – which is responsible for licensing private, municipal and state hydropower projects – is authorized to collect fees from hydro projects on federal property to compensate taxpayers for the use of those lands. Because of the way the law is written and interpreted by FERC, the commission has continued to collect user fees even after the federal government has sold or transferred the land underneath a hydropower project.

“This practice is completely unfair,” Murkowski said. “It’s like a landlord continuing to collect rent from a tenant even after the tenant has bought the house outright.”

Nationally, this practice effects about 15 hydropower projects – 10 of which are in Alaska – to the tune of some $240,000 in land-use fees to FERC every year. In Alaska, FERC collected $166,000 in fees in the past year from hydropower projects at Swan Lake, Tyee Lake, Blind Slough, Black Bear Lake, Cooper Lake, Skagway-Dewey lakes, Beaver Falls, Bradley Lake, Green Lake and Blue Lake, even though those projects are no longer on federal lands. 

“The amount of money that we’re talking about may seem insignificant, but to the ratepayers of those small utilities every penny counts,” Murkowski said. “The bill I introduced on Tuesday simply restricts FERC to collecting fees from projects that are currently on federal land.”

The Alaska hydroelectric projects impacted by the land-use fees and the amount they paid to FERC last year are listed below:

Swan Lake Project

SE Alaska Power Agency


Tyee Lake Project

SE Alaska Power Agency


Blind Slough

City of Petersburg


Black Bear Lake

BBL Hydro Inc.


Cooper Lake

Chugach Electric Association


Skagway-Dewey Lakes

Alaska Power & Telephone Co.


Beaver Falls

City of Ketchikan


Bradley Lake

Alaska Energy Authority


Green Lake

City of Sitka


Blue Lake

City of Sitka