The National Hydropower Association (NHA) is fighting back against a joint statement issued recently by three special interest groups critical of the proposal of Senator Pete V. Domenici (R-New Mexico) and Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-Louisiana) to reform the hydropower licensing process. The NHA said the special interest groups’ criticism was inaccurate and void of facts.Washington D.C. – September 26, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “We could not disagree more with the joint statement by American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and the Hydropower Reform Coalition concerning the Domenici-Tauzin hydropower licensing reform proposal,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director of NHA. “Sadly, this type of inaccurate rhetoric has plagued the debate on Capitol Hill since Day One. The facts of the proposal are simple, straightforward and stand on their merit. However, those who oppose hydropower licensing reform have distorted the facts to undermine the debate.” The legislative language released Monday by the Chairmen is based on provisions included in the April 11 House-passed energy bill, which was adopted with strong bipartisan support. The Chairmen made two changes to address the concerns of several environmental groups who have since endorsed the Domenici-Tauzin proposal. Those groups are the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the American Fly Fishing Tackle Association and the American Sportfishing Association. The recent statement by American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and the Hydropower Reform Coalition focused on one of the proposal’s provisions which allows for an agency “trial-type” hearing on the record on disputed issues of material fact. The groups’ statement claims that “other interests who are already recognized as full parties to FERC proceedings including states, tribes, irrigators, landholders, and the public would be excluded from such proceedings.” It also states that such hearings “could add years” to the licensing process. Here are the facts according to the NHA: all parties to a licensing proceeding will have the right to fully participate in such hearings in exactly the same manner as a licensee. What’s more, resource agencies will have the discretion to expedite the trial-type hearings; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) have conducted similar hearings in as little as two months. In many cases, these hearings will expedite, rather than delay, the licensing process, said the NHA. Under current law, a license applicant may only challenge agency mandatory conditions on substantial evidence grounds in the federal Court of Appeals after a final license has been issued. The availability of an agency trial-type hearing will reduce the need to utilize the two to three year-long Court of Appeals judicial review process, said the NHA. “Trial-type hearings will add accountability to the licensing process, which is missing today. The hearings will help ensure that mandatory conditions for important environmental protections are supported by the facts, practical and indeed necessary. This will save ratepayers served by hydroelectric projects significant amounts of money over time and will help make sure that the many benefits of our nation’s hydropower projects are better recognized in the licensing process,” said Ciocci. “The Domenici-Tauzin proposal reforms the licensing process while keeping intact federal agency mandatory conditioning authority and the public’s right to participate in what is already the most publicly intensive regulatory process for any energy source. It gives licensees creativity and flexibility in meeting important and necessary environmental protection goals. It is a moderate and responsible approach to repairing a process that has long been broken. The proposal is good public policy and serves America’s energy and environmental interests. We encourage Congress to adopt it this year,” concluded Ciocci.