U.S. Congress Closer to Easing Hydropower Licensing

The hydroelectric lobby in the United States welcomes moves in the federal government to reform the licensing process for power dams.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-07-31 [SolarAccess.com] The hydroelectric lobby in the United States welcomes moves in the federal government to reform the licensing process for power dams. By a 50-to-5 vote, the energy committee in Congress has passed legislation that will give hydroelectric owners the right to propose alternative environmental measures during the licensing of their projects. The ‘Energy Advancement & Conservation Act’ will provide owners with the right to propose license conditions that afford the same environmental protection, while costing less or permitting improved electrical generation. Currently, conditions imposed by resource agencies are mandatory and cannot be modified by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or others. Higher standards for information reporting are imposed by FERC, which has been criticized for failing to keep good data on the time and cost of the hydropower licensing process. “Today, we are one step closer to badly needed reform of the hydro licensing process but we believe that more comprehensive legislative reform is necessary,” says NHA executive director Linda Church Ciocci. “While we still have some concerns about the licensing process, we applaud chairman Tauzin, chairman Barton and members Boucher and Dingell for recognizing the importance of hydropower and putting aside partisan politics to address the nation’s energy problems.” The inability of the licensing process to balance environmental and energy needs in the hydroelectric sector has been the subject of scrutiny for several years. The industry warns that the existing process threatens hydraulic capacity and operational flexibility, as one-half of licensed hydro capacity in the country faces renewal over the next 15 years. “All across the west, utilities are struggling to keep the lights on and to provide the reliable power that is the engine of economic growth,” says former NHA president Julie Keil, of Portland General Electric. “To call the (licensing) process a three ring circus does not do justice to the complexity we face.” NHA supported the bill in the House of Representatives, but says it remains concerned over failure to address scientific standards and independent review of final decisions by federal agencies. The group expressed its commitment to seeing those issues addressed elsewhere in the legislative process.
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