Two House members urge Senate to take up hydropower bill

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., have written a piece for the POLITICO political news service that says hydropower is a key energy development prospect for the future and that the U.S. Senate needs to pass a bill to encourage it.

“As Congress faces tough questions about our fiscal future, we also have a unique opportunity to advance bipartisan energy policy that will create jobs,” they wrote in a Nov. 29 summary of their POLITICO piece. “Putting Americans to work by expanding the nation’s access to clean, affordable hydropower is a solution on which the House of Representatives already found consensus. Indeed, when we passed the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act earlier this year, we acted unanimously — the only example of unanimity on an energy issue in this Congress. That is why we urge the Senate to take up and pass this hydropower legislation before the end of the year.”

Hydropower has provided the U.S. with affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for over 130 years, they said. “Today, hydropower makes up two-thirds of the nation’s renewable-electricity supply, and regions that get a majority of their electricity from hydropower have on average the lowest electricity bills in the nation. Hydropower’s flexibility contributes to a more stable electric grid and enables integration of additional variable renewable resources.”

The U.S,. Department of Energy reports that more than 12 GW of capacity could be installed at the nation’s existing non-powered dams. That’s the equivalent of 12 nuclear power plants, they said. “In fact, only 3 percent of the country’s 80,000 dams currently have generation facilities. Many developers are also exploring smaller applications, including construction in engineered irrigation conduits.”

A 2010 study conducted by the National Hydropower Association revealed that by utilizing currently untapped resources, the U.S. could add about 60,000 MW of new hydropower by 2025, creating up to 700,000 jobs in the process.

“All of these factors make clear that Congress should be working to increase Americans’ access to hydropower,” the representatives said. “That is why we came together to collaborate on the HREA. It facilitates the development of small hydropower and conduit projects and studies the feasibility of a streamlined two-year permitting process for other low-impact development. With minimal authorizations that are completely offset, the bill adds no costs to taxpayers.”

Both the National Hydropower Association and American Rivers, the largest advocacy group dedicated to protecting the health of the nation’s waterways, testified in support of the legislation, they noted. “But since passage, the HREA has stalled in the Senate. Without immediate Senate action, the 113th Congress will have to spend additional time and resources to reintroduce and advance policy we’ve already reached agreement on — time that would be better spent focusing on other important energy-related issues. The time is now for the Senate to approve these hydropower regulatory improvements. We must not pass up this opportunity for bipartisan energy legislation when the finish line is in sight.”

McMorris Rodgers is chairman of the House Republican Conference. DeGette is chief deputy whip. Their Nov. 29 statement was posted to the Republican version of the House Energy & Commerce Committee website. Both McMorris Rodgers and DeGette are members of that committee.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.