Hydropower plays a major role in our economy and energy supply in Eastern Washington. It is clean, safe, reliable, renewable, and affordable. On average, it takes only 18 months to license a new natural gas facility, but it can take up to 10 years or longer to license a new hydropower project or relicense an existing facility. As the largest source of renewable energy in the United States, we need to modernize the way we license and relicense hydropower and this legislation will do that.
The story of hydropower in the Pacific Northwest is an important one. It makes up roughly 70% of the energy production in Washington state, and studies show that we could double hydropower production without building a single new dam, simply by updating and streamlining relicensing processes.
Specifically, this legislation modifies the definition of renewable energy to correctly include hydropower, allows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to extend a preliminary permit for an additional 4 years with the possibility of an additional 4 years, and directs FERC to move forward on establishing a schedule following the filing of a licensing application.
On June 28, 2017, this legislation went before the House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration, passing by a voice vote. It will now continue its journey through the legislative process. During the hearing, I delivered opening remarks on the importance of this legislation to Eastern Washington and the Pacific Northwest. In case you missed it, you can see them here:
On November 8, this legislation went before the full House for final passage. I’m excited to announce that the bill passed the House by a vote of 257-166. Hydropower is crucial to our way of life in the Pacific Northwest. It’s clean, it’s renewable, it’s reliable, and it’s one of the reasons why we in Eastern Washington enjoy some of the most affordable electricity rates in America. This bill won’t change outcomes or environmental standards. Instead, it will speed up the relicensing process and save time and money. Providing relief from these costly and time-consuming regulatory processes will encourage investment in hydropower so we can continue to support this clean energy in our region. I am so happy to see this bill pass the House and look forward to continue to work on this issue as the bill comes before the Senate for consideration.
I also spoke on the House floor during the debate on this legislation. In case you missed it, you can view my remarks here:
In a letter of support for the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act, Avista Corp. in Spokane said, “H.R. 3043, among its other provisions, facilitates constructive engagement in the licensing process by affirmatively designating FERC as the coordinating agency… Moreover, it gives licensees the incentive to invest in technological upgrades to a licensed project and to undertake environmental measures beyond the requirements of the existing license – all in an environmentally-sensitive manner.” You can read the full letter of support from Avista Corp. here.
I have long been a champion of our dams and the power they produce. I am the co-chair of the Northwest Energy Caucus and the founder of the Hydropower Caucus, which provide a platform for me to educate my colleagues in the House and Senate about the importance of dams and advocate for them.
Last Congress, I authored bipartisan legislation to streamline the dam relicensing process which would lower electricity costs in Washington state. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation this year and work to provide our region with reliable, clean, and affordable energy for generations to come.
In 2016, I also served as one of 24 Republicans conferees on the Energy Conference Committee to work with a bipartisan group of House and Senate Members on a package of legislation to modernize our energy infrastructure and support new and innovative technology in hydropower and carbon neutral biomass. You can see my full remarks at the Conference Committee here:
In November of 2016, I penned an op-ed published in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin titled “Our Dams Support Us; It’s Time to Support Them” which further outlines my support for our dams and the benefits they bring to our community in Eastern Washington.