The national-hydropower-association (NHA) in the US has approved a government subcommittee’s approval of a bill which aims to improve the process for relicensing hydro power facilities. NHA also applauded an amendment to the bill that would create incentives to develop new hydro power capacity at existing dams.

‘We are pleased with the outcome of today’s mark up and sincerely thank Chairman Barton for his leadership in steering this modest proposal through his committee,’ Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of NHA, said on 16 May.

At the energy and power subcommittee mark-up, Chair -man Joe Barton offered a substitute to Representative Edolphus Towns’ hydro reform bill 2335. The Barton substitute preserved the Towns

bill’s fundamental purposes of restoring balance to the licensing process while removing some provisions that were criticised by natural resource agencies and environmentalists at a hearing on 30 March.

The Barton substitute continues to require that federal resource agencies, when mandating operating conditions of a hydro project, consider and document the impacts of their decision on a broad range of factors. However, it removed language that would have created a higher scientific standard for licence conditions; created an administrative appeal- process to contest conditions; and made the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the lead agency in conducting an environmental review.

The amendment offered by Representatives John Shadegg and Albert Wynn provides a 0.5cent/kWh incentive for all new hydro development at existing dams, and provides payment for 10% of capital costs for efficiency improvements of 3% or greater at an existing project. It also calls for a study to examine expanding capacity at federal dams.

‘While we respect the passion felt by the bill’s opponents,’ Ciocci added, ‘when the smoke clears it will become apparent that the bill makes reasonable changes to a licensing process that is badly in need of repair. It is absolutely critical that process improvements be made so that our country can continue to enjoy the benefits of hydroelectric generation.’