WASHINGTON – Legislation that could help hydropower developers generate enough power for 800 homes in Colorado for a year and create jobs cleared a key hurdle Thursday night.
The U.S. Senate approved legislation Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) sponsored to streamline the process by which hydropower from small canals and ditches on 373 existing man-made federal sites is made.
It would also streamline red tape by exempting hydropower developers whose projects generate 5 megawatts or less from submitting a second environmental impact statement.
“This is a victory for all of the communities in Colorado and throughout the U.S. that will benefit from this clean, affordable source of energy and the jobs hydropower production will create,” Tipton said in a statement.
“Just as water makes the West as we know it possible, hydropower plays an important role in supplying our country with clean, renewable energy,” Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said in a press release.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a more controversial version of the legislation in March 2012. That bill would have exempted all hydropower development projects from adhering to a second review required by the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act.
Opponents said the measure was an end run around the law. To address their objections, Tipton rewrote the bill to create a categorical exclusion for smaller hydropower development projects. By a vote of 416 to 7, the House passed the newer version of the bill in April.
According to a 2012 U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report, Colorado’s hydropower developers could generate 100.2 million kilowatt hours a year from 28 sites in the state. The average home consumes 11,317 kilowatt hours a year, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spokesman indicated President Obama will sign the bill into law.