The Hill: Hydropower backers push faster permitting

Hydropower backers push faster permitting
Devin Henry
The Hill
10/19/15
http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/257337-hydropower-backers-push-faster-permitting

A hydropower industry group is encouraging Congress to move forward with bills to speed up the permitting process for new projects. 

The National Hydropower Association launched a website and public education campaign Monday to plug the industry, the role it can play in reducing carbon emissions and congressional measures designed to ease hydropower permitting in the future. 

“As a nation, if we are serious about decreasing carbon emissions and expanding clean energy solutions, we simply can’t allow hydropower to be hindered by a process that can take up to ten years,” NHA executive director Linda Church Ciocci said in a statement.

“Unless and until we have a system that exemplifies efficiency, timeliness and accountability, America’s largest source of renewable energy will continue to be held back.”

There are about 1,400 hydropower plants in the United States today, generating about 7 percent of the country’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Association. The industry’s biggest presence is in the Pacific Northwest, where hydropower is a key source of electricity. 

NHA says there are “dozens” of hydropower projects waiting for federal permitting, about 40 percent of which have been delayed beyond their license expiration dates.

Both the House and Senate included hydropower provisions in their respective energy overhaul bills. 

In the House, lawmakers directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take the lead in permitting new plants and consult with relevant agencies to write a permitting schedule, among other measures.

The Senate’s energy bill does the same, and it contains a “sense of Congress” provision that all authorizations for hydropower plant should be issued within three years of filing with FERC. 

“Congress has a chance to unlock hydropower’s potential to fight climate [change], while providing millions of homes and businesses with access to affordable and sustainable energy,” Ciocci said. 

“With this campaign, we hope to empower and encourage American’s to let their representatives know how important waterpower is to our clean energy future.”