Four hydro bills clear the Senate Energy committee

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said May 8 that the committee favorably reported five bills that would encourage the growth of hydropower and spur energy efficiency in homes and buildings.

“Every time you pass bills like this, you put points on the board in the fight against climate change, and you do it in a bipartisan way,” Wyden said. “Hydropower has really become the gold standard for collaboration in energy and making homes and buildings more efficient is one of the cheapest ways to save energy. To anybody who calls this ‘low-hanging fruit,’ I’d say, to me, it looks pretty ripe for a gridlocked Congress. “

The bills are the first energy-related legislation passed by the committee this Congress, Wyden noted. Four of the bills would streamline federal approval of hydropower facilities. The fifth bill is the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S. 761), sponsored by Senators Jean Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. The legislation would encourage energy efficiency and job growth by, among other things, strengthening national model building codes.

The committee passed the following bills by voice vote:

  • S. 306, a bill to authorize all Bureau of Reclamation conduit facilities for hydropower development under Federal Reclamation law, and for other purposes, with an amendment offered by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
  • S. 545, a bill to improve hydropower, and for other purposes, with an amendment agreed to by both staffs.
  • S. 761, a bill to promote energy savings in residential and commercial buildings and industry and for other purposes, with a manager’s amendment of a perfecting nature.
  • H.R. 267, a bill to improve hydropower, and for other purposes.
  • H.R. 678, a bill to authorize all Bureau of Reclamation conduit facilities for hydropower development under Federal Reclamation law, and for other purposes.

Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah, Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., asked to be recorded as voting against S. 761, Wyden noted. The bills are now eligible for full Senate consideration.

The ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said in her own May 8 statement that all five bills are the right way to go. “It’s encouraging to see senators from both sides of the aisle coming together to work on bipartisan energy legislation,” she said. “Sen. Wyden and I have made it a priority to focus on areas of broad consensus, where we can really make something happen, and we’ve accomplished that today. I expect these hydropower bills, followed by the energy efficiency legislation, will be our first energy-related public laws this Congress.”

Murkowski’s Hydropower Improvement Act (S. 545) focuses on administrative actions that can be taken to advance the conventional hydropower resource. Its companion measure, H.R. 267, unanimously passed the House earlier this year by a vote of 422-0.

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (S. 306) is designed to facilitate small conduit hydropower development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities. The House companion measure, H.R. 678, passed the House earlier this year by a vote of 416-7.

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.