Hydro industry energy policy reintroduced on Capitol Hill

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A bipartisan renewable energy policy designed to promote hydroelectric development has been reintroduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Diana DeGette , D-Colo.

Officially known as House Resolution 267, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 seeks to promote the growth of mini hydro and conduit projects by streamlining the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) permitting process for low-impact proposals.

"Today, we launch a new path toward smarter, more efficient hydropower project permitting, and it's a victory for us all that we are doing so on a bipartisan basis," DeGette said. "This legislation will expand renewable and affordable hydropower -- far and away our nation's largest source of clean energy -- and create good jobs for American families."

The bill received unanimous approval from the 112th Congress in July 2012, when the legislation -- then known as H.R. 5892 -- passed the House by a 372-0 vote.

The bill also had bipartisan support in the Senate given hydropower's role in President Barack Obama's renewable energy plan, though it did not come to a vote before the end of the session.

"The future of American energy independence depends on the development of an 'all-of-the-above' energy approach, and I'm proud that hydro is finally on its way to being part of it," McMorris Rodgers said.

The National Hydropower Association (NHA), which has been quick to support the reintroduction of the bill, said hydroelectricity currently accounts for about two-thirds -- or 90,000 MW of the nation's total renewable capacity -- while the industry employs about 300,000 workers.

NHA said that capacity could increase to as much as 60,000 MW while creating 1.4 million cumulative jobs should the right policies come to fruition.

"With so much untapped potential in the U.S. to increase both clean electricity and jobs, hydropower has the ability to be a driving force behind America's economic growth," NHA Executive Linda Church Ciocci said.

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