Bennet-Backed Hydropower Legislation Passes Senate

Bill Expands Clean-Power Generation, Spurs Job Creation

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet hailed the Senate passage of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act which encourages expanded hydropower production in the United States.  The Act removes licensing barriers for smaller hydropower development and requires a study of a streamlined permitting process at existing dams and pumped storage products.

Bennet cosponsored the Senate companion to the legislation, along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  The Senate passed the House version of the bill, which that chamber passed in February.  It will now head to the President's desk for his signature to become law.  The Denver Post editorialized in favor of the measure earlier this week.

"Hydropower is a clean and cost effective source of energy that has an enormous amount of potential in Colorado," Bennet said.  "By removing these barriers to expansion we are promoting sustainable energy and increasing job growth in this sector.  This is a refreshing example of the House and Senate working together in a bipartisan way to move a commonsense bill forward."

The bill seeks to substantially increase the United States’ hydropower capacity in an effort to expand clean-power generation and spur domestic job creation.  Hydropower allows us to avoid approximately 200 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year. According to the Department of Energy, the U.S. has the potential for 300 gigawatts of additional hydropower.

Details of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act

  • 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 Department of Energy (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.