These permits do not authorize construction. Rather, they give the developer priority to study a project at the specified site for the duration of the permit.
The majority of the comments filed addressed the construction of the project, including the cable to shore, and potential impacts the project might have on fish and wildlife, aesthetics, and navigation. As noted, a preliminary permit does not authorize a permittee to undertake any construction. Furthermore, the purpose of a preliminary permit is to study the feasibility of the project, including studying potential impacts. The issues raised in the comments are premature at the permit stage, but can properly be addressed in the licensing process.
By its terms, a preliminary permit gives the permit holder no land-disturbing or other property rights, nor does it authorize the placement of any test devices. This being the case, we generally do not consider environmental issues in issuing permits.
The FERC adds that because they result in "no environmental impacts" preliminary permits are only denied for a limited number of reasons:
Because the issuance of a permit can have no environmental impacts, there are few reasons for the Commission to deny a permit application. The Commission will deny a permit where it selects one competing permit application over another. As a matter of policy, the Commission has decided not to issue permits where there is a legal bar to issuing a license for the proposed project. We have also denied permits where we had completed an environmental analysis in a previous proceeding and decided that environmental considerations had made the site in question appropriate for hydropower development, and where a permit applicant was unfit to be a licensee.
Thus comments on potential threats to wildlife, views, quietude and the rest, while raising matters of legitimate concern, do so prematurely, as the preliminary permit is specifically designed to formally evaluate and investigate those concerns. That's what it is for.