A bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 265–154 by the U.S. House last week seeks to fast-track permitting for hydropower installations of 1.5 MW or less in canals and pipelines by minimizing environmental reviews.

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act of 2011 (H.R. 2842) now heads to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Essentially, the bill authorizes hydropower development on existing manmade Bureau of Reclamation water canals and pipes. It cuts government red tape by streamlining a duplicative regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for developing these green energy projects. Such man-made facilities are already on disturbed ground, have no environmental impact and have already gone through environmental review, said sponsor Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.).

Democratic legislators such as House Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) had raised concerns during debate of the bill that provisions of the bill could exempt projects from requirements of the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). Lawmakers rejected Napolitano’s amendment that would have removed language from the bill exempting some hydropower installations from NEPA in a 168–253 vote.

“This is one of the most simple and sensible bills on energy development that we have yet heard,” said Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). “What this bill promises, at no cost to taxpayers, is the freeing up of absolutely clean electricity on a scale so vast that it would take several hydroelectric dams to duplicate. Simply by getting government bureaucracies out of the way, this bill has the potential of adding thousands of mega watts of clean and renewable electricity to the nation’s energy supply.”

Sources: POWERnews, Library of Congress