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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Hydropower Bill

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo joined Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today to introduce the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013.  Other co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation include: Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), James Risch (R-Idaho), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

The bill seeks to substantially increase the United States' hydropower capacity in an effort to expand clean-power generation and spur domestic job creation.  As the country's largest source of renewable energy, hydropower allows us to avoid approximately 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year.  According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. has the potential for 300 gigawatts of additional hydropower.

Crapo: "Hydropower efficiently and cleanly provides about seven percent of the nation's electricity. Senator Murkowski's legislation helps to increase that capacity without increasing the country's out-of-control deficit."

Murkowski: "Hydropower is, and must continue to be, a major part of our energy solution.  It is the largest source of renewable electricity generation in the United States, and our most cost-effective, clean energy option.  Hydro already supplies 24 percent of Alaska's electricity needs and our state has identified more than 200 promising sites for further hydropower development.  There is great potential for additional hydropower development across the country."

Wyden: "Generating hydropower from water in irrigation canals, conduits, and behind existing dams is the low-hanging fruit the U.S. should seize as it moves toward a low-carbon economy.  This bill will turn that untapped resource to clean energy in Oregon and across the United States.  I look forward to working with Sen. Murkowski and the other co-sponsors of the bill to move this legislation through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee."

Risch: "Streamlining the hydropower relicensing process and retrofitting existing structures for energy production needs to happen. Hydropower remains the cleanest, most cost effective and one of the most dependable domestic sources of energy.  The relicensing process should not be a hindrance to a proven clean energy resource."

Cantwell: "Emissions-free hydropower provides close to three-quarters of Washington state's electricity and keeps our rates among the lowest in the country.  This bipartisan bill would help encourage small hydropower development and streamline hydropower licensing on existing dams and canals.  More hydropower capability means an increased supply of affordable clean energy, which helps make Washington state a leading place to live and do business.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to quickly pass this common-sense legislation."

Murray: "Throughout the Pacific Northwest, hydropower has proven to be a valuable, efficient energy resource that produces a low carbon footprint for the environment.  I look forward to working with my colleagues from both parties to pass the Hydropower Improvement Act and build on our use of hydropower to create jobs, protect our environment, and bring clean energy resources to our communities."

Begich: "Alaska holds over a third of our country's untapped hydropower, our nation's largest source of renewable energy.  This common-sense legislation will help develop fish-friendly hydro sites that lower ratepayers costs and help power Alaska homes."

Details of the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011 

•           Provides the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the authority to extend preliminary permit terms;

•           Directs FERC to explore a possible two-year licensing process for hydropower development at non-powered dams and closed-loop pumped storage projects;

•           Establishes an expedited process for FERC to consider "qualifying conduit" hydropower facilities;

•           Increases the rated capacity for small hydro projects from five to 10 megawatts; 

•           Calls for the (DOE) to study the technical flexibility and grid reliability benefits that pumped storage facilities could provide to intermittent renewable energy, and the range of opportunities for conduit hydropower potential; 

•           Does not contain any spending authorizations and therefore does not represent any new funding. 

The Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 is a companion piece to H.R. 267, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, sponsored by Reps. Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-Washington) and Diana DeGette (D-Colorado).  H.R. 267 passed the House last month by a 422-0 vote and is supported by both the National Hydropower Association and American Rivers.

The bill and a section-by-section summary are attached.