U.S. Representative Scott Tipton’s hydroelectric bill passes the House, Senate companion bill hearing April 23

Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

Today, the House passed with bipartisan support Rep. Scott Tipton’s (CO-03) legislation to create rural jobs by expanding the production of clean renewable hydropower. The bill passed the House 416-7 this year, a significant increase in bipartisan support from the 2012 vote of 265-154.

By eliminating duplicative environmental analysis on existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits (pipes, ditches, and canals) that have received a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), H.R. 678 streamlines the regulatory process and reduces administrative costs for the installation of small hydropower development projects within those conduits. In doing so, the bill encourages increased small hydropower development, which will create new rural jobs in Colorado, add clean, affordable electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure, and supply the federal government with additional revenues…

“H.R. 678 is a commonsense piece of legislation to foster clean renewable energy development, create jobs in rural America, and do so without taxpayer cost while returning revenues to the Treasury, and by all measures, should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said. “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

“Every day, water flows thousands of miles through canals, pipes, and ditches across the country, and every day we miss valuable opportunities to utilize this resource’s full potential,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) an original co-sponsor of H.R. 678. “The greatest barrier to unleashing the next generation of hydropower is not technological; it is regulatory. For that reason, Congressman Tipton and I have been working to remove the obstacles the keep us from expanding one of the most reliable tools in our energy toolbox. ”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported that H.R. 678 has no cost to taxpayers, and returns revenues to the treasury. The Interior Department has identified at least 28 Bureau of Reclamation canal sites in Colorado, and 373 nationwide, that could be developed for hydropower purposes.

Tipton amended H.R. 678 on the House floor to address concerns expressed by some of his Democrat colleagues, and at the request of the broad range of irrigation districts, water conservation and conservancy districts, and public utilities most directly impacted by the bill. This amendment removes the NEPA waiver in the bill and instead codifies the application of the Bureau of Reclamation’s categorical exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act for small hydropower projects covered by the bill.

This alternative provision would still ensure the streamlining of the approval process for clean renewable energy and help provide certainty for investors and job creators, while providing flexibility to the Bureau to adjust to changing circumstances moving forward.

“By advancing these projects under the Bureau’s categorical exclusion process, we ensure that all of the elements in that process are retained, including agency discretion for examining extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the amendment specifically mentions codifying the categorical exclusion process for small conduit hydropower,” said Tipton.

This approach is supported by Trout Unlimited in its March 19, 2013 letter, which states that “Congress could direct BOR to create a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower.” That’s exactly what this amendment does.

“The use of a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower development can mean the difference between private investment in a public good with a multitude of benefits, and unreasonable financial costs and lengthy delays that lead to untapped potential, Tipton said. “My hope is that this amendment, which is broadly supported by the diverse range of groups invested in the bill who are committed to ensuring continued environmental protection, will assuage any reservations about this effort to promote clean renewable energy and allow us to move forward united in our support.”

The Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act has been endorsed by the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, and the American Public Power Association, among others.

Sens. John Barrasso (WY), Jim Risch (ID), Mike Enzi (WY) and Mike Crapo (ID), have introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 306,), which will receive a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 23, 2013.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

A measure that would allow irrigation districts and other organizations to generate electricity from ditches and small pipes passed the U.S. House on Wednesday. The measure by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., passed 416 to 7 with all members of the Colorado delegation voting in favor of the measure.

A companion measure sponsored by Sens. John Barasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both of Idaho, all Republicans, is awaiting action in the Senate.

A previous version of the bill passed the House last year, 265-154, but no Senate vote was taken last year.

H.R. 678 would encourage increased development of small hydropower projects, create new jobs in rural areas of Colorado, boost the amount of electricity to the grid to power homes and communities, modernize infrastructure and supply the federal government with additional revenues, Tipton said in a statement.

The measure passed the full House after Tipton carried an amendment that included small-conduit hydropower projects on pipes and ditches built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as those that could be approved as categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Similar legislation for projects under the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission already has passed the House and also is before the Senate.

The bill “should be considered low-hanging fruit for congressional action,” Tipton said. “There has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to pursue an all-of-the-above domestic energy strategy, and hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive national energy policy.”

Each megawatt of new hydropower generates 5.3 new jobs, according to estimates by the National Hydropower Association. That could mean as many as 1,000 new jobs in Colorado for developers, engineers, attorneys, financiers, concrete workers, plumbers, carpenters, welders and electricians, said Kurt Johnson, president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association.

From The Denver Post (Allison Sherry):

Rep. Scott Tipton’s twice-attempted bill to bring hydropower development to rural areas across the country got almost unanimous support in the full House Wednesday.

In a 416-7 vote, the House approved the measure that will allow small hydropower development projects within existing man-made Bureau of Reclamation conduits — pipelines, ditches and canals. The proposal eliminates duplicative environmental analysis and streamlines the regulatory process to make that development easier…

All seven members of Colorado’s House delegation voted for Tipon’s measure Wednesday.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

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