Today, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced H.R.3680, the "Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2011", in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here is a summary of the bill’s major provisions:
- Would exempt small hydroelectric facilities of 10 MW or less from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") licensing process (currently, the exemption applies to facilities of 5 MW or less);
- Would remove conduit hydroelectric facilities of 5 MW or less from FERC jurisdiction (such facilities would not be required to file for a license or an exemption from licensing);
- Would exempt all conduit hydroelectric facilities of 40 MW or less from the FERC licensing process (currently, the exemption applies to facilities of 15 MW or less, or 40 MW or less in the case of municipal water supply projects);
- Would permit the development of conduit hydroelectric facilities on Federal land;
- Would provide FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits for up to an additional 2 years in certain circumstances;
- Would require FERC to investigate the feasibility of a 2-year licensing process for the development of (1) hydroelectric facilities at nonpowered dams and (2) closed-loop pumped storage facilities;
- Would require the Department of Energy to study the potential for conduit hydropower development and potential sites for pumped-storage facilities located near existing or potential sites of intermittent renewable energy projects (e.g., solar, wind); and
- Would require the President to submit a report to Congress on actions taken by the DOE and other Federal agencies pursuant to the memorandum of understanding on hydropower that was signed on March 24, 2010.
Many of these provisions are similar to those contained in S.629, the "Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011", which was introduced in the Senate on March 17, 2011 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Notably, however, approximately $100 million in research and development funding included in S.629 was not included in the House bill.
The National Hydropower Association ("NHA") and Stoel Rives partner Cherise Oram, a member of the NHA’s Legislative Committee, have worked closely with Members on both sides of the aisle over the past several months to develop the language of H.R.3680. NHA supports the bill and is pleased with both the bipartisan support of its original co-sponsors and the additional interest that has been shown by democrats and republicans in different regions of the country.