Click here to read about the bill on GovTrack.us
From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):
The legislation comes in the form of a bill called the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act. It was reintroduced to the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 15 by lawmakers from Colorado and Washington state. Though an identical bill was shot down in the Senate late last year, it did pass the House in July by a unanimous vote. The bill’s main focus is to clear much of the red tape associated with permitting small hydroelectric power projects, mainly those generating less than 5-megawatts of electricity.
Both U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) co-sponsored the bill, and one of its major supporters is the Colorado Small Hydro Association. Ophir’s Kurt Johnson is president of the association, and in the past he has promoted the benefits of small hydroelectric projects…
Regulations currently in place require most hydroelectric projects to go through an application process and review with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC process can be lengthy and expensive, which can create a burden to small projects.
If the new bill is passed into law, the regulatory process could be streamlined for certain small hydro projects. The bill, as written, provides periods of public comment and directs FERC to examine the feasibility of a two-year licensing process for certain low-impact hydropower projects. Some of the low-impact projects could include the conversion of existing non-powered dams into power-generating ones.
According to the association, the current permitting process has been a barrier to small projects for decades. As a result the association claims much of Colorado’s, and the country’s hydroelectric resources are under utilized.
Historically, western Colorado has had a number of small hydroelectric projects, including the Bridal Veil hydroelectric power station above Telluride. Bridal Veil along with the Ouray Hydroelectric Power Plant in Ouray are two of the oldest AC power plants in the country…
The bill states a significant amount of new hydroelectric generation could come from maximizing existing infrastructure, particularly non-powered dams. It states that only about 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate hydropower.