WESTERN SAN JUANS – Small hydro got another big boost last week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 678, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, by a vote of 416-7.
The bill, introduced by Colorado Republican Congressman Scott Tipton, simplifies permitting for small hydro development on Bureau of Reclamation facilities by eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing manmade Bureau of Reclamation conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have already received a review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“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 said. “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.”
According to the Department of the Interior, there are 373 canal sites nationwide (and 28 in Colorado) that could benefit from Tipton’s legislation, which was first introduced last year.
The bill compliments the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (H.R. 267), unanimously passed by the House in February this year, which creates a “regulatory off ramp” for small hydro projects which otherwise would have previously been required to secure a federal permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
The small hydro cause got another boost in March, when U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced companion legislation to H.R. 267 in the Senate with Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet signing on as a co-sponsor.
As a next step, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on April 23, 2013 to discuss Senate companion versions of both the Tipton bill and the DeGette bill.
“Hopefully these non-controversial, long-overdue, common-sense, bipartisan hydro reform bills will quickly complete the legislative process and be signed into law,” said Colorado Small Hydro Association President Kurt Johnson.
Johnson noted that Colorado currently has hundreds of hydro-related jobs, a number which has the potential to grow rapidly if the pending hydro reform legislation can become law. The National Hydropower Association has estimated 5.3 jobs created per megawatt of new hydro construction. COSHA estimates approximately 200 MW of potential new hydro development in Colorado, which would mean approximately 1,000 new jobs created in Colorado, including jobs for developers, engineers, attorneys and financiers as well as concrete workers, plumbers, carpenters, welders and electricians.