Scenic Hudson Preservation Conf. v. Federal Power Com'n

Decision Date29 December 1965
Docket NumberDocket 29853.,No. 106,106
Citation354 F.2d 608
PartiesSCENIC HUDSON PRESERVATION CONFERENCE, Town of Cortlandt, Town of Putnam Valley and Town of Yorktown, Petitioners, v. FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION, Respondent, and Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., Intervener.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit


Lloyd K. Garrison, New York City, (Simon H. Rifkind, Albert K. Butzel, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York City, and Dale E. Doty, Washington, D. C., of counsel), for petitioner, Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference.

Samuel L. Slutsky, Putnam Valley, N. Y., for petitioner, Town of Putnam Valley.

John C. Tuttle, Peekskill, N. Y., on the brief, for petitioner, Town of Cortlandt.

John R. Kibbe and Raymond Margles, Yorktown Heights, N. Y., on the brief, for petitioner, Town of Yorktown.

Josephine H. Klein, Washington, D. C. (Richard A. Solomon, Gen. Counsel for Federal Power Commission, Howard E. Wahrenbrock, Sol., Melvin Spaeth, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Washington, D. C., on the brief), for respondent.

Randall J. LeBoeuf, Jr., New York City (LeBoeuf, Lamb & Lieby, New York City, on the brief), for intervener.

Before LUMBARD, Chief Judge and WATERMAN and HAYS, Circuit Judges.

HAYS, Circuit Judge:

In this proceeding the petitioners are the Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference, an unincorporated association consisting of a number of non-profit, conservationist organizations, and the Towns of Cortlandt, Putnam Valley and Yorktown. Petitioners ask us, pursuant to § 313(b) of the Federal Power Act, 16 U. S.C. § 825l(b), to set aside three orders of the respondent, the Federal Power Commission:1

(a) An order of March 9, 1965 granting a license to the intervener, the Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., to construct a pumped storage hydroelectric project on the west side of the Hudson River at Storm King Mountain in Cornwall, New York;

(b) An order of May 6, 1965 denying petitioners' application for a rehearing of the March 9 order, and for the reopening of the proceeding to permit the introduction of additional evidence;

(c) An order of May 6, 1965 denying joint motions filed by the petitioners to expand the scope of supplemental hearings to include consideration of the practicality and cost of underground transmission lines, and of the feasibility of any type of fish protection device.

A pumped storage plant generates electric energy for use during peak load periods,2 using hydroelectric units driven by water from a headwater pool or reservoir. The contemplated Storm King project would be the largest of its kind in the world. Consolidated Edison has estimated its cost, including transmission facilities, at $162,000,000. The project would consist of three major components, a storage reservoir, a powerhouse, and transmission lines. The storage reservoir,3 located over a thousand feet above the powerhouse, is to be connected to the powerhouse, located on the river front, by a tunnel 40 feet in diameter. The powerhouse, which is both a pumping and generating station, would be 800 feet long and contain eight pump generators.4

Transmission lines would run under the Hudson to the east bank and then underground for 1.6 miles to a switching station which Consolidated Edison would build at Nelsonville in the Town of Philipstown. Thereafter, overhead transmission lines would be placed on towers 100 to 150 feet high and these would require a path up to 125 feet wide5 through Westchester and Putnam Counties for a distance of some 25 miles until they reached Consolidated Edison's main connections with New York City.6

During slack periods Consolidated Edison's conventional steam plants in New York City would provide electric power for the pumps at Storm King to force water up the mountain, through the tunnel, and into the upper reservoir. In peak periods water would be released to rush down the mountain and power the generators. Three kilowatts of power generated in New York City would be necessary to obtain two kilowatts from the Cornwall installation. When pumping the powerhouse would draw approximately 1,080,000 cubic feet of water per minute from the Hudson, and when generating would discharge up to 1,620,000 cubic feet of water per minute into the river. The installation would have a capacity of 2,000,000 kilowatts, but would be so constructed as to be capable of enlargement to a total of 3,000,000 kilowatts. The water in the upper reservoir may be regarded as the equivalent of stored electric energy; in effect, Consolidated Edison wishes to create a huge storage battery at Cornwall. See Federal Power Commission, National Power Survey 120-21 (1964).

The Storm King project has aroused grave concern among conservationist groups, adversely affected municipalities and various state and federal legislative units and administrative agencies.7

To be licensed by the Commission a prospective project must meet the statutory test of being "best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway," Federal Power Act § 10(a), 16 U.S.C. § 803(a). In framing the issue before it, the Federal Power Commission properly noted:

"We must compare the Cornwall project with any alternatives that are available. If on this record Con Edison has available an alternative source for meeting its power needs which is better adapted to the development of the Hudson River for all beneficial uses, including scenic beauty, this application should be denied."

If the Commission is properly to discharge its duty in this regard, the record on which it bases its determination must be complete. The petitioners and the public at large have a right to demand this completeness. It is our view, and we find, that the Commission has failed to compile a record which is sufficient to support its decision. The Commission has ignored certain relevant factors and failed to make a thorough study of possible alternatives to the Storm King project. While the courts have no authority to concern themselves with the policies of the Commission, it is their duty to see to it that the Commission's decisions receive that careful consideration which the statute contemplates. See Michigan Consolidated Gas Co. v. Federal Power Comm., 108 U.S. App.D.C. 409, 283 F.2d 204, 226, cert. denied, Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. v. Michigan Consol. Gas Co., 364 U.S. 913, 81 S.Ct. 276, 5 L.Ed.2d 227 (1960). Petitioners' application, pursuant to § 313 (b), 16 U.S.C. § 825l(b), to adduce additional evidence is granted.8 We set aside the three orders of the Commission to which the petition is addressed and remand the case for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.


The Storm King project is to be located in an area of unique beauty and major historical significance. The highlands and gorge of the Hudson offer one of the finest pieces of river scenery in the world. The great German traveler Baedeker called it "finer than the Rhine." Petitioners' contention that the Commission must take these factors into consideration in evaluating the Storm King project is justified by the history of the Federal Power Act.

The Federal Water Power Act of 1920, 41 Stat. 1063 (1920) (now Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. § 791a et seq.), was the outgrowth of a widely supported effort on the part of conservationists to secure the enactment of a complete scheme of national regulation which would promote the comprehensive development of the nation's water resources. See Federal Power Comm. v. Union Electric Co., 381 U.S. 90, 98-99, 85 S.Ct. 1253, 14 L. Ed.2d 239 (1965); First Iowa Hydro-Electric Coop. v. Federal Power Comm., 328 U.S. 152, 180, 66 S.Ct. 906, 90 L.Ed. 1143 (1946). See generally Cushman, The Independent Regulatory Commission 275-283 (1941); Pinchot, The Long Struggle for Effective Federal Water Power Legislation, 14 Geo.Wash.L.Rev. 9 (1945).9 It "was passed for the purpose of developing and preserving to the people the water power resources of the country." United States ex rel. Chapman v. Federal Power Comm., 191 F.2d 796, 800 (4th Cir. 1951), aff'd, 345 U.S. 153, 73 S.Ct. 609, 97 L.Ed. 918 (1953).

Congress gave the Federal Power Commission sweeping authority and a specific planning responsibility. First Iowa Hydro-Electric Coop. v. Federal Power Comm., 328 U.S. 152, 180-181, 66 S.Ct. 906, 919 (1946) ("instead of the piecemeal, restrictive, negative approach of the River and Harbor Acts and other federal laws previously enacted"); National Hells Canyon Ass'n v. Federal Power Comm., 99 U.S.App.D.C. 149, 237 F.2d 777 (1956), cert. denied, 353 U.S. 924, 77 S.Ct. 681, 1 L.Ed.2d 720, rehearing denied, 353 U.S. 978, 77 S.Ct. 1054, 1 L.Ed.2d 1139 (1957).

Section 10(a) of the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. § 803(a), reads:

"§ 803. Conditions of license generally.
All licenses issued under sections 792, 793, 795-818, and 820-823 of this title shall be on the following conditions:
* * * * * * *
(a) That the project adopted, * * * shall be such as in the judgment of the Commission will be best adapted to a comprehensive plan for improving or developing a waterway or waterways for the use or benefit of interstate or foreign commerce, for the improvement and utilization of water-power development, and for other beneficial public uses, including recreational purposes; and if necessary in order to secure such plan the Commission shall have authority to require the modification of any project and of the plans and specifications of the project works before approval." (Emphasis added.)

"Recreational purposes" are expressly included among the beneficial public uses to which the statute refers. The phrase undoubtedly encompasses the conservation of natural resources, the maintenance of natural beauty, and the preservation of historic sites.10 See Namekagon Hydro Co. v. Federal Power Comm., 216 F.2d 509, 511-512 (7th Cir. 1954). All of these "beneficial uses," the Supreme...

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