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Senate subcommittee hears testimony on hydropower development legislation

Members of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources heard testimony yesterday about legislation that could help expedite hydroelectric development along Bureau of Reclamation canals and ditches.

House Resolution 2842, called the "Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act," passed the House earlier this year.

Now working its way through the Senate, H.R. 2842 received the support of Reclamation's Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Administration and Budget, who testified Wednesday before the Water and Power Subcommittee. "The Department of the Interior supports the goals of H.R. 2842, which aims to increase the generation of clean, renewable hydroelectric power in existing canals and conduits," says Deputy Commissioner Grayford F. Payne. "As noted in previous hearings, the Department has an aggressive sustainable hydropower agenda, which we continue to implement under existing authorities."

If approved by Congress, the bill would provide blanket authorization for installation of small hydropower on all Reclamation-owned canals and conduits. It also would require Reclamation to offer preference to water user organizations for the development of such projects under a Reclamation Lease of Power Privilege.

The bill also would exempt small canal and conduit projects of less than 1.5 MW from the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. It would designate Reclamation's Power Resources Office as the lead point of contact for requests to develop canal and conduit hydropower.

"Reclamation will continue to review and assess potential new hydropower projects that provide a high economic return for the nation, are energy efficient, and can be accomplished in accordance with protections for fish and wildlife, the environment, or recreation," Payne says. "As the nation's second largest hydropower producer, Reclamation strongly believes in the past, present and bright future of this important electricity resource."

The continued efforts by those championing H.R. 2842 are being applauded by the National Hydropower Association, which says the bill could provide renewable energy to more than 30,000 new homes every year.

"We urge the Senate to enact this and other key pieces of hydropower legislation that have advanced this Congress," says Jeff Leahey, NHA Director of Government Affairs.

"These bills have little or no cost, have bipartisan support, and will move our country closer to accessing 60,000 MW of untapped hydropower potential."

HydroWorld.com reported that the House passed H.R. 5892 -- also known as the "Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012" -- with a unanimous 372-0 vote in July.

That bill would also help stimulate small hydropower development by streamlining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permitting process.


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