WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to sign legislation that would make it easier for hydropower developers of small canals and ditches on federal land to get their projects approved.
A federal agency source told TCO that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has “every expectation” that the bill Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) sponsored will be signed into law.
“We’ve always supported the goals of the bill. Our concerns were addressed,” the source added.
A White House spokesperson released a non-committal statement about the administration’s response to the bill.
“The administration supports an all-of-the above approach to cut carbon pollution and create American jobs by developing our energy resources, including through hydropower. We need to develop our nation’s rich energy resources while keeping in place key protections for the environment,” a senior administration official said.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved the Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act. Coming on the heels of the the House’s passage of the bill in April, the legislation hit the desk of the president on Friday. The bill would exclude virtually all hydropower development projects of five megawatts or less at 373 existing man-made sites from the requirement they conduct an environmental impact report.
A related piece of legislation has come before Obama as well.
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) sponsored a bill that directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the feasibility of a streamlined two-year permitting process for small hydropower developments. The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act sailed through the House earlier this year and the Senate Thursday.
The bill would apply to hydropower development on non-federal lands at 2,500 dams and increase the limit of small hydropower exemptions from five megawatts to ten. In a statement, DeGette said the bill will “expand renewable and affordable hydropower — far and away our nation’s largest source of clean energy — and create good jobs for American families.”
A FERC spokesperson did not comment on the prospects of whether or not the President would sign DeGette’s bill.
Generating energy from moving water of small projects is among the least controversial methods of energy production in Washington, as it is environmentally friendly, reliable, stable, and does not waste energy. Yet developing hydropower can have high upfront costs for developers. Tipton and DeGette’s bills seek to address this need.
Both Bureau of Reclamation and FERC officials delivered testimony of the bills this year and last year that was largely positive. The Obama administration announced a goal of producing 80 percent of the nation’s energy from clean energy sources by 2035 and has provided funding for hydropower development projects.
Under the Constitution, the President has ten days excluding Sundays to sign the bill or withhold his or her signature. If the president does not sign the bill and return it to Congress, he or she issues what is called a pocket veto. According to a report the Congressional Research Service released in April, Bill Clinton was the last president to pocket veto a bill.