The National Hydropower Association (NHA) praised Senator Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) and Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) for recognizing the importance of hydropower to the nation’s energy portfolio and electricity grid by proposing conference report language that will considerably reform the process to license the nation’s non-federal hydropower projects.Washington D.C. – September 24, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “NHA applauds Chairmen Domenici and Tauzin for proposing conference report language that brings much needed balance, accountability and transparency to the hydropower licensing process,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of NHA. “The language released today will substantially improve the way hydropower projects are licensed while ensuring that important environmental protections remain. We encourage Congress to adopt these provisions this year,” The language is based on the provisions included in the House-passed energy bill. Two changes were made, however, to address the concerns of several environmental community constituents. The hydro licensing reform proposal will: – Allow a licensee to propose a cost and/or energy-saving alternative condition – an alternative that federal resource agencies would have to accept if the agencies determined that the alternative meets the existing statutory requirements for environmental protection; – Provide an opportunity – once mandatory conditions are drafted by federal resource agencies – for an agency hearing on the record on any disputed issues of material fact; – Require federal resource agencies to document that it gave “equal consideration” to the energy, economic, environmental and other public impacts of their mandatory conditions before imposing them on licensees – something agencies don’t do now; and… – Provide a non-binding dispute resolution process should FERC find a final mandatory condition to be inconsistent with its requirements under the Federal Power Act. Senator Domenici, who chairs the House-Senate conference on comprehensive energy legislation which began earlier this month, is the chairman of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. Congressman Tauzin chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Both the House (April 11) and Senate (July 31) passed comprehensive energy legislation this year which included hydropower licensing reform provisions. “As we learned again during the August 14 eastern blackout, hydropower is a vital renewable energy resource that must be preserved for future generations of Americans. We are delighted the Chairmen recommended legislation to their fellow conferees that addresses a major problem facing the hydropower resource. Today’s language will help ensure that hydropower continues to play an important role in our nation’s long-term energy strategies.” The NHA said reforming the hydro licensing process as soon as possible is critical as over 50 percent of the nation’s non-federal hydropower capacity – 296 projects with a total energy capacity of 30,492 MWs, enough power for over 30,000,000 homes – will go through the process in the next 15 years. Many projects will soon begin the process since project renewals typically begin approximately five years prior to the expiration of an existing license.