House member releases discussion draft on bill to speed up hydro project reviews

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on April 24 released a discussion draft on her legislation to update the federal regulation of non-federal hydropower, which gives certainty to those who are working through the regulatory process.

“Hydropower offers Eastern Washington and the nation significant benefits – including energy security, reliability, environmental protection, and recreation opportunities,” she said. “I am excited to help unleash American ingenuity to increase hydropower production, lower energy costs for middle-class families, and expand domestic energy production in an affordable and cost-effective manner. Tremendous potential exists for new hydropower development, including facilities at existing infrastructure such as nonpowered dams, new hydropower sites, and emerging technologies that improve the capture of energy along irrigation canals, municipal water supply conduits, and other infrastructure.

“As Co-Chair of the bipartisan Northwest Energy Caucus, I’m working in Congress to address Federal laws that too often get in the way of utilizing this renewable energy resource, to streamline the hydropower licensing and relicensing process to make it more efficient and transparent, and to encourage early environmental protection. As the largest source of renewable energy in the United States, we need to modernize the way we license projects that utilize hydropower, our cleanest, most affordable and reliable energy resource.

“Washington State alone gets approximately 70 percent of its power from hydropower and today, we could double hydropower production in America without building a single new dam. While the Federal Power Act and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 have tried to require better decision making and promote efficiency in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s licensing process, unfortunately, this has not occurred. The discussion draft I am releasing today – the Hydropower Regulatory Modernization Act of 2015 – seeks to start a conversation on how best to correct this problem and expand an energy source for the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the country that will not only lower energy costs, but create thousands of jobs.”

The draft says about Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority: “The Commission shall have exclusive authority to enforce, amend, approve compliance with, and otherwise administer all terms, conditions, prescriptions, certifications, articles, and all other requirements included in any license or exemption issued under this part.”

The draft also says: “The Commission shall seek to minimize duplicative studies and process costs by requiring the conduct of studies or other information-gathering activities only when the Commission determines that new data or other information are necessary to support decisionmaking and that the value of such new data or other information outweighs the cost of producing it.”

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.