Jun 28, 2017 / Energy/Environment

McMorris Rodgers’ Hydropower Policy Modernization Act Passes Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 28, 2017) – On Friday of last week, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) introduced the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017. Today this bill 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 today’s hearing, Rep. McMorris Rodgers 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:

You can find more information about this legislation by visiting www.mcmorris.house.gov/hydropower.

 

Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ remarks as delivered:

Strike the last word,

Thank you Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, asking for strong support of the language that is before the committee.

Hydropower serves as the nation’s largest source of clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable energy.

In my home state it’s over 70 percent of our energy power comes from hydropower.

And there is still room for tremendous potential to increase production of this renewable energy resource.

We could double hydropower production in America without building a new dam. Only 3% of the dams actually produce electricity, it’s estimated it would create over 700,000 new jobs by simply updating the technology in our existing infrastructure and streamlining the relicensing process.

The only problem?

On average it only takes 18 months to authorize or relicense a new natural gas facility in America, and it regularly takes over 10 years or longer to license a new hydropower project or reauthorize an existing facility.

It’s time to fix this arbitrary, out of date approval process and make hydropower production easier and less costly.

And that’s exactly what the the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017 will do.

Specifically, this language designates FERC as the lead agency for the purposes of coordinating all Federal authorizations and establishes coordinated procedures for the licensing of hydropower projects.

By designating FERC as the lead when coordinating with agencies, states, and tribes, there will be added transparency and collaboration. This added certainty in the relicensing process will diminish the burden on the resource agencies and help avoid unnecessary delays.   

This language also incentivizes capital intensive projects, like updating turbines or improving fish ladders. Right now, these upgrades are only included in the lifespan of a dam’s license during the relicensing window.

Just as a side note, with updated turbines and fish ladders we are seeing record salmon returns in the Pacific Northwest.

Included in the legislation is an early action provision requiring FERC to include all protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures during the relicensing process.

In addition, the legislation allows the timely and efficient completion of license proceedings by minimizing duplication of studies and establishing a program to compile a comprehensive collection of studies and data on a regional or basin-wide scale. At the same time, industry has the option to help pay for studies and staff resources to speed up the relicensing process.

I serve as the co-chair of the Northwest Energy Caucus, and I recognize the tremendous potential hydropower brings to our region, Eastern Washington, but to the entire country.

By utilizing currently untapped resources and unleashing American ingenuity, hydropower production will lower energy costs and help create jobs.

I just would bring to the committee’s attention that this has been a very bipartisan effort through the years. This language has been before the committee for several months. In fact this is language that passed the Senate with 85 votes last Congress. We have made some amendments that I want to bring to your attention in keeping with the promise to listen to the concerns expressed by members of the committee and across the aisle to deliver a bipartisan solution.

The amendment responds to the concerns expressed by FERC to loosen some of the process reforms for licensing amendments and exemptions, which are a class of permits that are generally handled by FERC in a timely fashion. The amendment revises our language to allow the Secretary of the Resource Agency to delegate certain authorities to identified persons within their respective departments.

It also includes bipartisan language that clarifies our intent that hydro reforms will have no effect on the Clean Water Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the Endangered Species Act, Rivers and Harbors Act, National Historic Preservation Act.

And it also includes bipartisan language on watershed wide plans and qualified project updates.

I’m hopeful that we can get the committee’s support of this language. And I yield back.

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