House subcommittee reviews new hydro development legislation

House of Representatives Seal

The U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing this week on legislation that could further improve conditions for hydroelectric project development.

Introduced by Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., The Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act (House Resolution 1963) would authorize the development of non-federal hydropower projects on existing, man-made pipes and canals at 12 Reclamation projects.

The bill is similar to the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (H.R. 678), which passed the House with a unanimous 422-0 vote earlier this year.

The new act was proposed, however, because the dozen Reclamation projects potentially benefitting H.R. 1963 were authorized by a different federal statute -- the Water Conservation and Utilization Act (WCUA) of 1939.

"It's time for these outdated and senseless federal barriers to be removed so that this renewable energy source can be developed," Daines said.

The proposal would come at no cost to taxpayers, though it would increase revenue for the U.S. Treasury via lease payments paid by project developers to the Bureau of Reclamation.

"I view this bill as a housekeeping effort to clarify what policies should be for hydropower development," testified Gary Kennedy, superintendent of Colorado's Mancos Water Conservancy District. "This bill will correct that issue."

Daines' bill is only the most recent presented to the 113th Congress, which has already shown strong bipartisan support for hydropower-centric legislation through the current session.

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