House Committee Advances Two Hydro Bills to Streamline Permitting Process

The first official day of committee activity in the 113th Congress saw the advancement of two hydropower bills with bipartisan support in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In an organizational meeting for the 113th Congress on Tuesday, lawmakers in the committee voted to pass The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act (H.R. 267) and The Collinsville Hydroelectric Relicensing Bill.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act seeks to help facilitate the development of small hydropower projects and conduit projects across the country by "reducing red tape and streamlining the permitting process," as its authors, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), describe it. The legislation essentially directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the feasibility of a streamlined two-year permitting process.

The bill, which will now be considered by the full House of Representatives, was unanimously passed by the full House in the previous congressional session, but it did not come to vote before the end of the session in the Senate, even though it had enough bipartisan support.

According to the bill, the U.S. hydropower industry employs about 300,000 workers across the nation and as of Jan. 15, 2013, generated about 7% of electricity in the U.S. through 100 GW of installed hydroelectric capacity.

It also reiterates an April 2012 finding by the Department of Energy that only 3% of the 80,000 dams in the U.S. generate electricity, citing a "substantial potential for adding hydropower generation to nonpowered dams." Using currently untapped resources, the U.S. could add about 60 GW of new hydropower capacity by 2025, it says.

The Collinsville Relicensing bill, which has not yet been introduced, was authored by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.). It would provide FERC with limited authority to reinstate two terminated hydroelectric licenses and transfer them to a new owner, the Town of Canton, Conn. The licenses are associated with the Upper and Lower Collinsville Dams on the Farmington River in Connecticut. Both projects are under 1 MW each.

The House Committee also passed three other bills, all related to healthcare.

Sources: POWERnews, House Energy and Commerce Committee

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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