WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 8, 2017) – Hydropower helped build the Northwest, and still today it provides the region with clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable energy to power homes, businesses, and communities. Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (WA-05) Hydropower Policy Modernization Act (H.R. 3043) passed the United States House of Representatives by a vote of 257-166. This legislation would streamline hydropower relicensing processes in America to encourage the continued use and expansion of low-cost, renewable hydroelectric energy in Washington state and beyond.
“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,” said McMorris Rodgers. “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.”
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.
Today on the House floor, the Congresswoman spoke during debate of the legislation, offering her rationale on the importance of this legislation to Eastern Washington. Watch her full remarks here:
THE BACKGROUND: On average in the U.S. it takes only 18 months to license a new natural gas facility but can take up to eight years or longer to license a new hydropower project or relicense an existing facility. The existing hydropower fleet provides good-paying jobs across the country and produces enough low-cost electricity to power 85 million homes and avoids nearly 190 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year. The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2016 Hydropower Vision Report identified nearly 50 GW of new hydropower and pumped storage growth potential by 2050 GW, which would avoid 5.6 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions, save an estimated $209 million in avoided damages, and create more than 195,000 jobs. Despite these substantial benefits, U.S. hydropower resources are at risk due to an outdated and lengthy licensing process for both proposed new projects and existing projects requiring reauthorization.
THE SOLUTION: H.R. 3043 addresses these problems without compromising environmental protections. The bill improves the process by promoting accountability and transparency, requiring greater cooperation among federal and state agencies, and reducing needless duplication of efforts. This bill would streamline the hydropower relicensing process by allowing FERC to extend preliminary 4-year permits for hydropower projects and require FERC to establish a process for setting a schedule for a licensing review. Finally, the bill would also modify the federal definition of renewable energy to correctly include hydroelectric energy. Without these hydropower licensing process improvements we risk losing investment opportunities in new hydropower infrastructure which would provide consumers with affordable electricity and expand the use of clean, renewable energy.