House takes step toward passing bill easing hydropower regulations

The bill, from Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), would streamline the process of environmental review for hydropower projects on conduits controlled by the Bureau. Tipton said these reviews can be sped up because the sites already underwent extensive environmental review before the man-made conduits were built.

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"This legislation authorizes power development at the agency's conduits, to clear up multi-agency confusion and duplicative processes, and reduces the regulatory costs associated with hydropower development," Tipton said.

Only one Democrat spoke during the debate on the rule, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and she argued that the Bureau of Reclamation only requires a two-page form to be filled out to develop hydropower along these conduits. She said there is "little evidence" there is any problem at all that the bill is addressing.

More broadly, she criticized Republicans for focusing on this bill and not legislation that would help boost job creation.

"With economic warning bells beginning to toll, one would expect Congress to make job creation our number one priority," she said. "Instead of working on legislation to grow our economy and to create some good-paying jobs, we are wasting valuable session time discussing yet another bill that went nowhere in the last Congress, and I predict will go nowhere in this one as well."

Republicans argued that freeing up the regulatory process would boost jobs, by making it easier for companies to more quickly develop hydropower.

The rule makes in order a handful of technical amendments to the bill that the House is expected to consider before passing the bill later Wednesday.