The US Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee has approved a bipartisan amendment to comprehensive energy legislation that will improve the licensing process for the country’s 1600 non-federal hydro power projects.
The provision adopted by the Energy Committee allows a hydro power project licensee, or any other party to a licensing proceeding, to offer cost or power-saving alternatives to the mandatory operating conditions that are placed on hydro power projects by federal resource agencies (Departments of the Interior, Commerce and Agriculture). These conditions are placed on hydro projects during the licensing process, run by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
If an agency determines that the alternatives proposed meet the existing statutory requirements for environmental and resource protection, and the agency concurs with the licensee that the alternatives will result in significant cost or power savings, the alternatives are accepted by the federal agency. The bill also requires an agency to document that it gave ‘equal consideration’ to the effects of the conditions adopted and alternatives rejected on energy supply, distribution, cost, flood control, navigation, water supply, air quality and other aspects of environmental quality.
The amendment, offered by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), was adopted by a unanimous voice vote. Committee Chairman Pete V Domenici (R-NM) and senators Gordon Smith (R-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) cosponsored the amendment.
‘NHA applauds Senators Craig, Smith, Cantwell and Feinstein for agreeing to language that continues the bipartisan spirit of the Energy Committee mark-up that Chairman Domenici has worked so hard to establish. The hydro power licensing reforms…represent good public policy that will benefit millions of electric consumers,’ said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of the National Hydropower Association. ‘The provisions will protect the environment and better preserve the multiple uses and benefits provided by our nation’s hydro power resources.’
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