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Congressional interest in hydropower reform reflected in hearings, calls for additional discussion

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Interest in streamlining the hydroelectric power approval process continues as House Democrats have called the Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a second hearing on regulatory improvements.

The call, put forth by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and 12 other committee members, would add to a March 15 hearing titled, "Modernizing Energy Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities to Expanding Hydropower Generation."

That session -- detailed in the April issue of Hydro Review magazine -- included testimony from a number of industry representatives who called upon Congress to reduce many of the regulatory hurdles faced by plant developers, owners and operators.

"Hydroelectric power provides substantial, virtually carbon-free, baseload energy at low cost to our manufacturing sector and to residential and commercial consumers," the request said. "It is an important asset that we believe is essential to maintain."

If approved by Committee Chair Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Subcommittee Chair Fred Upton, R-Mich., the hearing would draw upon testimonies from states, resource agencies and tribal entities.

"In order to move forward on considering any legislative changes to current law in a knowledgeable manner, the Committee must hear from those who propose the conditions including licenses," the request said.

Committees from both the House and the Senate have seemed keen to maintain support for reforming hydropower legislation, even through the transition in presidential administrations, with both chambers having held similar hearings since Donald Trump's January inauguration.

In fact, the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings on hydro-related legislation tomorrow.

Draft bills to be discussed by the Energy & Commerce Committee include:

  • Promoting Hydropower Development at Existing Non-Powered Dams Act;
  • Promoting Closed-Loop Pumped Storage Hydropower Act; 
  • Promoting Small Conduit Hydropower Facilities Act;
  • The Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017.

The committee will also discuss acts including:

  • House Resolution 446, To Extend the Deadline for Commencement of Construction of a Hydroelectric Project;
  • H.R. 447, To Extend the Deadline for Commencement of Construction of a Hydroelectric Project; and
  • H.R. 2122, To Reinstate and Extend the Deadline for Commencement of Construction of a Hydroelectric Project.

The committee takes place at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Later in the day, the Committee on Natural Resources will hold a meeting titled, "Oversight Hearing on the Challenges of Keeping Hydropower Affordable and Opportunities for New Development."

The hearing will focus on the addition of conventional and pumped-storage capabilities to non-powered dams, and upgrades to existing projects, with an emphasis on decreasing the number of federal regulatory impediments that currently exist.

The hearing takes place at 2:30 p.m. in the Longworth House Office Building.

Both hearings coincide with the National Hydropower Association's Annual Conference, which is currently taking place in Washington, D.C.

For more policy and regulation news, visit here.