On March 17, 2011, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate hydropower projects and development across the country. The Hydropower Improvement Act has a total of nine co-sponsors, including Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The bill seeks to substantially increase U.S. hydropower capacity and support local job creation and economic opportunities.
According to Murkowski, the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011 "achieves common sense regulatory reform, spurs economic growth and takes advantage of hydropower's position as the country's leading source of clean, renewable energy." Similarly, Senator Bingaman states that the “bill allows us to highlight the potential for development of additional hydropower resources in an environmentally responsible way.” The bill includes provisions to address the potential for hydropower development from smaller sources that are available even in dry states like New Mexico.
“Additionally,” Bingaman states, “the bill emphasizes the need to improve efficiency at existing facilities and to tap into the hydropower potential at existing non-powered dams.” Senator Cantwell adds, “This bipartisan bill will help find ways to increase our nation’s hydropower capacity without building new dams, improving air quality while creating new clean energy jobs.”
The bipartisan nature of this bill establishes hydropower as a major area of consensus on energy in the 112th congress. In fact, according to National Hydropower Association (“NHA”) Executive Director, Linda Church Ciocci, “Hydropower has more multi-region and bipartisan support than any other clean energy technology… this bill recognizes the vital role of hydropower as an affordable, reliable, available, and sustainable domestic energy source.”
The NHA applauds the bill because it will advance project deployment (from conduit and small hydro to non-powered dams to pumped storage) by requiring better interagency coordination; through funding of competitive grants for increased production; and with continued support for research and development activities. Additionally, as expressed by NHA President, Andrew Munro, this increase in hydropower development supports President Obama’s goal of attaining eighty percent of our nation’s electricity with clean energy.
The key provisions include:
Tripp Hall is a law student, outdoor enthusiast, and environmental advocate.
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