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Last week, President Barack Obama signed into law two bills designed to expand hydropower production in the U.S. by improving and streamlining the licensing process for small hydropower projects. Previously, the Senate unanimously passed the legislation just before it adjourned for August; the House passed each bill with nearly unanimous support earlier in the year.

The Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act authorizes the U.S. Department of the Interior secretary to contract for small conduit hydropower development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act modifies the Federal Power Act and the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act to promote and facilitate the development of hydropower by doing the following:

- Increasing the small hydro exemption to 10 MW (currently at 5 MW);

- Removing conduit projects under 5 MW from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction and increasing the conduit exemption to 40 MW for all projects;

- Providing FERC the ability to extend preliminary permits; and

- Requiring FERC to examine a two-year licensing process for non-powered dams and closed-loop pump storage.

Several industry stakeholders and lawmakers have applauded Obama’s signature of the legislation.

“President Obama's signature on hydropower legislation is terrific news for expanding renewable energy and creating jobs across the country," says Kevin Frank, president and CEO of Voith Hydro. "There's no better indication that hydropower is at the center of the national policy debate than the widespread and bipartisan support these bills received in both the House and Senate.”

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., co-author of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act, has hailed the bill’s passage.

“As President Obama signs this bipartisan hydropower bill into law, we launch a new path toward smarter, more efficient hydropower project permitting,” says DeGette. “For a state like Colorado, and indeed the entire nation, this law expands renewable and affordable hydropower - far and away our nation’s largest source of clean energy - and [creates] good jobs for American families.”







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