McMorris Rodgers Introduces Bill to Unleash Clean, Reliable Hydropower Through Innovation and Licensing Reform

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) today introduced the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act to expand clean, renewable, reliable, and affordable hydropower production in America, as well as to promote the innovation of the next generation of hydroelectric technology.

“Eastern Washington is the perfect example of what’s possible when we unleash the potential of hydropower in America. It’s strengthened our energy grid, lowered energy costs for families and businesses, and transformed our entire region – all while reducing carbon emissions,” said Rodgers. “This is a model worth expanding, and it starts with reforming the licensing process and promoting the innovation needed to usher in the next generation of hydro technology. This legislation will help preserve our existing hydropower fleet and bring more power online as demand grows into the future.”

The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act:

  • Confirms that hydropower is an essential renewable energy resource for all Americans by ensuring that electricity produced from hydropower qualifies as a renewable resource for all federal programs and procurement requirements.
  • Reforms the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing process to protect existing hydropower resources and encourage the development of small and next-generation projects by:
    • Affirming a 2-year licensing process for next generation hydropower resources;
    • Exempting small hydropower projects that do not have significant environmental impacts;            
    • Exempting closed-loop pumped storage projects that do not utilize federal land or impound navigable waters; and
    • Promoting innovation in turbine design and generating technology to improve performance and efficiency while protecting environmental resources and fish.     
  • Removes barriers to rapidly expanding hydropower development identifying electricity market rules and ownership models that encourage development of conventional, pumped storage, conduit, and emerging hydropower technologies.
  • Recognizes hydropower’s contributions to a more stable and reliable electric grid, promoting its use to help balance electricity supply and demand and integrate intermittent power sources cost-effectively.
  • Addresses construction barriers the hydropower industry has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic by extending the time by which a project must commence construction after receiving its license.

The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act is supported by the following organizations:

“Hydroelectric power is a reliable, affordable, and clean form of energy that supports Pacific Northwest families and businesses. As a resource that can be deployed at a moment’s notice, hydropower helps prevent blackouts during extreme weather events and supports reliability across the Western United States when there are peaks in demand. Hydropower relicensing reform is vital, and we are fortunate that Rep. McMorris Rodgers recognizes this valuable asset and continues advocating for the future of clean hydropower in the United States.” – Kurt Miller, Executive Director of the Northwest River Partners

“This bill recognizes the crucial role of hydropower in establishing a resilient, clean electricity grid, by improving the needlessly burdensome FERC hydropower licensing process. By improved decision making and coordination among all stakeholders, this legislation addresses the excessive time, cost and uncertainty associated with the current process. With almost half of the non-federal fleet up for relicensing, this bill will protect and expand valuable hydropower assets in an environmentally responsible manner. Rep. McMorris Rogers has been a long standing hydropower champion and we thank her for continuing to push for licensing reform.” – Malcolm Woolf, CEO & President of the National Hydropower Association

“Hydropower, whether federal or non-federal, plays a vital role in sustaining system reliability and clean energy goals for millions of consumers in our country. We applaud Chair McMorris Rodgers in attempting to streamline the process for licensing and relicensing these critical domestic energy resources and for her tireless efforts in protecting existing hydropower projects.” – Scott Simms, Executive Director of the Public Power Council (PPC)

“Hydropower is a clean, reliable, and abundant source of power for communities all over our country. The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act will ensure that we unleash our hydropower capabilities to secure American energy and reduce emissions. The American Conservation Coalition Action thanks Chairwoman McMorris Rodgers for her leadership on clean energy.” – Christopher Barnard, VP of External Affairs at the American Conservation Coalition Action 

“We are pleased that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers has reintroduced the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act.  As Congress focuses on energy permitting, it’s important that the hydro licensing process facilitates reinvestment in the nation’s hydropower fleet. We look forward to working with her and others in Congress to optimize hydropower’s contribution to the transforming electric grid.”  – Kirk Hudson, General Manager Chelan PUD

“We applaud Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ continued efforts to support hydropower. If we are serious about securing and strengthening a cleaner energy grid, we must be serious about optimizing hydropower resources. This legislation recognizes that hydropower is essential to maintaining a low-cost, clean, and reliable energy supply. It includes important components that will not only preserve but enhance the value hydropower resources provide communities in Washington State and across the nation. We look forward to supporting the advancement of Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers’ legislation and her continued work on this important issue.” – George Caan, Executive Director of the Washington PUD Association 

“Grant PUD appreciates the leadership of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers as she introduces the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act. Our renewable energy portfolio is rooted in hydropower which has allowed us to reliably and affordably serve our customer’s homes, businesses, and farms here in the Northwest for many decades. As the owner and operator of two hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River, as well as the operator of two smaller hydropower generation projects, our combined hydropower generating capacity is more than 2,100 megawatts, and we recognize the essential role hydropower plays in our collective quest for carbon-free energy sources. We look forward to working with the Congresswoman and others to see the success of this bill that will help modernize the hydropower licensing process and unlock the potential of new hydropower energy throughout the county.” – Rich Wallen, CEO and General Manager of Grant PUD

“Recognizing hydropower as a reliable, clean and affordable energy partner sets a path of success for communities working to support renewables in the fuel mix while protecting their most vulnerable neighbors. We appreciate Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers’ steadfast leadership in advancing hydropower’s prominence in supporting a clean, reliable grid.” – Gary Ivory, Douglas PUD General Manager 

“Hydropower’s unique benefits are an essential part of any climate solution. The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act is a critical step forward to create jobs and provide renewable and reliable baseload energy. CRES is proud to support Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ efforts to remove barriers needed to harness hydropower’s full potential and ensure a resilient and reliable clean energy grid.” – Heather Reams, President of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES)

“America’s leading power companies are constantly finding ways to reduce carbon emissions, and hydropower must be a huge part of that clean, reliable energy future. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a champion for the hydropower industry and this legislation will increase regulatory certainty and encourage more private-sector investment of the nation’s largest baseload renewable energy resource.” – Rich Powell, CEO of ClearPath Action 

“NWPPA has long advocated for several of the primary components contained in the bill. These include recognizing all hydropower as a renewable resource and supporting efforts to modernize the hydropower licensing process. The draft bill also promotes innovation and new technologies. For these reasons, I am pleased to offer NWPPA’s endorsement of this important legislation. We appreciate your ongoing efforts to protect hydropower as an important carbon-free generation resource and to continue to seek reforms that will strengthen existing hydropower, promote grid resilience, and encourage further innovation.” – Scott Corwin, Executive Director of the Northwest Public Power Association.

CLICK HERE to read the full bill text.

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