House OKs bill to lift barriers for small hydropower projects

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2013 - The House approved Wednesday, on a 416-7 vote, legislation that seeks to encourage increased small hydropower development, which would lead to new rural jobs and more “clean, affordable” electricity grid.

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678), introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., would eliminate duplicative environmental analysis on existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits, such as pipes, ditches, and canals, that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act.

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The legislation would streamline the regulatory process and reduce administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within those conduits.

“H.R. 678 is a common-sense piece of legislation to foster clean renewable energy development, create jobs in rural America, and do so without taxpayer cost while returning revenues to the Treasury, and by all measures, should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said.  “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

In support, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., said, “Every day, water flows thousands of miles through canals, pipes, and ditches across the country, and every day we miss valuable opportunities to utilize this resource's full potential. The greatest barrier to unleashing the next generation of hydropower is not technological; it is regulatory.”

The Congressional Budget Office has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury.  The Interior Department has identified at least 373 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites nationwide that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act has been endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, and the American Public Power Association, among others. 

Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 306), which is scheduled to receive a hearing April 23 in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


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