Cantwell introduces bill to boost hydro

Sen. Maria Cantwell introduced a bill Wednesday that would encourage development of small hydro-electric projects, a companion to a bill that passed the U.S. House last month. The Hydropower Improvement Act has support from both Republican and Democratic senators, and mirrors a bill that won unanimous support in the House, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The legislation would encourage additional hydropower production by removing some licensing barriers for small hydro projects. It does not provide authorization to build new large dams.

It would also require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the possibility of streamlining permitting existing dams and pumped storage projects into a two-year process.

Small conduit projects producing up to five megawatts of power would be exempt from FERC regulations, and those producing up to 40 megawatts could be exempted on a case-by-case basis.