The US House has voted in favour of Rep. Scott Tipton’s legislation designed to streamline the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within existing man-made US Bureau of Reclamation conduits.

The bill – H.R. 678 – passed the House 416-7 this year, a significant increase in bipartisan support from the 2012 vote of 265-154.

The bill has been designed to eliminate duplicative environmental analysis on conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In doing so, the bill encourages increased small hydropower development, which will create new rural jobs in Colorado, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues, Tipton said in a statement.

"H.R. 678 is a commonsense piece of legislation to foster clean renewable energy development, create jobs in rural America, and do so without taxpayer cost while returning revenues to the Treasury, and by all measures, should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action," Tipton explained. "There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy."

“Every day, water flows thousands of miles through canals, pipes, and ditches across the country, and every day we miss valuable opportunities to utilize this resource’s full potential," added Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) an original co-sponsor of H.R. 678. "The greatest barrier to unleashing the next generation of hydropower is not technological; it is regulatory. For that reason, Congressman Tipton and I have been working to remove the obstacles the keep us from expanding one of the most reliable tools in our energy toolbox."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

Tipton amended H.R. 678 on the House floor to address concerns expressed by some of his Democrat colleagues, and at the request of the broad range of irrigation districts, water conservation and conservancy districts, and public utilities most directly impacted by the bill. This amendment removes the NEPA waiver in the bill and instead codifies the application of the Bureau of Reclamation’s categorical exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act for small hydropower projects covered by the bill.

This alternative provision would still ensure the streamlining of the approval process for clean renewable energy and help provide certainty for investors and job creators, while providing flexibility to the Bureau to adjust to changing circumstances moving forward, Tipton said.