New legislation seeks to recognize hydropower as renewable, promote industry growth

Legislation introduced to the U.S. House could help promote hydroelectricity by ending practices that diminish existing hydropower and discourage new development, HydroWorld.com has learned.

House Resolution 6247 -- officially called the "Saving our Dams and New Hydropower Development and Jobs Act" -- was introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), who says the legislation would help eliminate regulatory red tape, generate new non-federal funding and improve governmental transparency.

"This bill recognizes a clear vision and common sense reforms for how our nation can protect existing hydropower and jumpstart new hydropower in order to produce more of this emissions-free and low-cost renewable energy," Hastings says.

If passed, H.R. 6247 would:

  • Declare that hydropower is a renewable energy source;
  • Prohibit federal funding from being used to remove, breach or study the removal or breaching of any hydropower dam unless explicitly authorized by Congress;
  • Prohibit federal funding to organizations that have engaged in dam removal or hydropower-decreasing litigation against the federal government;
  • Prohibit federal funding for new activities proposed in U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu's memorandum mandating new missions for the Power Marketing Administrations (PMA) until an agency report is completed to justify these activities and Congress authorizes them;
  • Prohibit the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies from bypassing hydropower turbines if a state has declared a drought emergency, or if these actions would harm endangered fish;
  • Improve transparency by allowing each PMA to estimate and report costs related to federal fish and wildlife acts -- including costs relating to lost power generation -- to their customers on a monthly basis;
  • Advance new hydropower through new water storage by allowing non-federal parties to complete studies and finance projects;
  • Create new funding sources to build water and power infrastructure;
  • Authorize hydropower development on existing man-made Reclamation water canals and pipes, as per legislation included in H.R. 2842, which passed the House in March;
  • Address costs and regulations imposed by the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce for licensing and re-licensing non-federal hydropower projects;
  • Protect electric transmission lines from forest fires by allowing electricity rights-of-way holders on federal lands to remove insect-infested trees or other hazardous fuels within 500 feet.

"This bill would officially recognize hydropower as renewable energy and help eliminate government roadblocks and frivolous litigation that stifle development," Hastings says. "Hydropower is an essential part of an all-of-the-above energy plan, and its expansion would create thousands of new American jobs, grow our economy and protect the environment."

Hastings’ bill comes on the heels of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012 (H.R. 5892), which passed the House with a unanimous 372-0 vote in July.

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