Omnibus appropriations bill could change U.S. participation in international hydropower project development

Washington D.C.

Buried deep within the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 is a clause that could potentially affect the United States' role in large-scale international hydroelectric power development.

The omnibus spending bill, officially House Resolution 3547, was signed by President Barack Obama on January 17.

The massive document is the result of The 113th Congress' failure to pass any of a dozen regular appropriations bills before the beginning of Fiscal Year 2014.

Per Section 7060.a.7.D:

"The Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director of each international financial institution that it is the policy of the United States to oppose any loan, grant, strategy or policy of such institution to support the construction of any large hydroelectric dam (as defined in "Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making," World Commission on Dams [November 2000])."

According to the World Commission on Dams, a "large dam" is one "with a height of 15 meters or more from the foundation". Dams between five and 15 meters in height with reservoir volumes of more than three million cubic meters are also considered "large".

The legislation could impact American support for international hydropower projects in that the U.S. has a hand in a number of international development lending agencies -- perhaps most notably the World Bank.

Though the World Bank announced a renewed support for large hydroelectric development during the International Hydropower Association World Congress in May 2013, the U.S. is the organization's largest shareholder. And though the USA reserves sole veto power over the bank's other 187 members, America's voting powers are limited to minority positions.

The USA's power in other World Bank-affiliated development organizations -- including the African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Asian Development Bank and Inter-American Development Bank -- is further decreased.

It is unclear what actual practical changes H.R. 3547 might have or how long they might last given that the legislation will lapse after the end of the current fiscal year.

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