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Murkowski reintroduces FERC hydropower licensing act

Lisa Murkowski

Bipartisan legislation introduced today by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski continues the recent trend of proposals designed to increase domestic hydro development.

The Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 -- a reintroduced version of the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011 which didn't come up for voting before the conclusion of this past congressional session -- would promote the development of small hydropower and conduit projects by decreasing regulatory timeframes of certain other low-impact hydropower projects.

Specifically, the act would allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to:

  • Extend preliminary permit terms;
  • Explore a possible two-year licensing process for hydropower development at non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped-storage projects;
  • Establish an expedited process for "qualifying conduit" hydropower facilities;
  • Increase the rated capacity for small hydro projects from five to 10 MW.

"Hydropower is, and must continue to be, a major part of our energy solution," Murkowski, R-Alaska, said. "It is the largest source of renewable electricity generation in the United States, and our most cost-effective clean energy option."

The bill is co-sponsored by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), alongside senators James Risch (R-Idaho), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

The National Hydropower Association (NHA) said about two-thirds of America's renewable energy comes from hydroelectric sources, though up to 60,000 MW and 1.4 million cumulative jobs could be created should the right legislation come to fruition.

"NHA applauds Sen. Murkowski's continued leadership to promote hydropower development through a more efficient regulatory process," NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said. "We look forward to working with Sen. Murkowski and the Energy and Natural Resource Committee to move this and other pieces of hydropower legislation through the Senate."

The act is a companion piece to House Resolution 267, or the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a unanimous 422-0 vote in February.

HydroWorld.com also reported earlier this month that the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power had held legislative hearings on the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R.678) and the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act (H.R. 254) -- both of which would also help American hydroelectric development.

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