House votes to expedite small hydropower licenses


The House of Representatives passed without opposition, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, which directs FERC to study the feasibility of a two-year permitting process for projects up to 40 MW.

This bipartisan bill – authored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) – passed 370-0. It would facilitate the development of small hydropower and conduit projects and direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the feasibility of a streamlined two-year permitting process. The legislation now moves to the Senate.

A recent hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee featured witness testimony that said permitting for non-federal hydro project could take seven years or longer because of reviews by different federal agencies, with conflicting policy goals. The hearing suggested that FERC be given ultimate authority, with reviews still being done by environmental, cultural and other agencies conntinui9g.

“In Eastern Washington, hydropower plays a pivotal role – whether it’s conventional, small, or conduit hydro – it provides 75% of electricity to the Pacific Northwest and represents a unique opportunity for job creation and energy production,” McMorris Rogers said. “It’s clean, reliable, renewable and affordable. Unleashing American ingenuity to increase hydropower production will lower energy costs and help create thousands of jobs. The future of American energy independence depends on the development of an ‘all of the above’ energy approach – and I’m proud that hydro is finally on its way to being part of it.”

“Today we launch a new path toward smarter, more efficient hydropower project permitting, and it’s a victory for us all that we are doing so on a bipartisan basis,” said DeGette.

The bill sets a maximum of 40 MW for projects subject to this type of review.

“The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act will continue the growth of the hydropower industry by encouraging development to bring additional affordable clean power to more Americans. We urge the Senate to continue this momentum and deliver the bill to the President’s desk,” said Linda Church Ciocci, Executive Director of the National Hydropower Association.

The bill’s authors point out that 7% of the nation’s electricity is generated by hydropower, but only 3% of 80,000 dams are used for this purpose. They add that 60 GW of potential generation could be added by 2025.