Energy & Environment

Bipartisan bill would streamline hydroelectric permitting

AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios
In this April 11, 2018 file photo, water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota, Wash.

A bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.) would streamline existing law to hasten the retrofitting of dams for hydropower. 

The bill would amend the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act to simplify the process of adding hydropower capacity to non-power dams, streamlining what Kuster called a “lengthy and inconsistent permitting review process.” 

“There are more than 200 dams in the United States that could be retrofitted to provide hydropower but the approval process is far too cumbersome,” Feinstein said. “Our bill will streamline the application process to convert these dams, creating good paying jobs and providing enough clean energy for more than 2 million homes.” 

“Energy security is national security, and in Montana, we know how important it is to grow clean, renewable hydropower,” Daines said. “Increasing power at Montana’s existing dams will strengthen our grid, provide reliable sources of energy for Montana families, and support Montana energy jobs.” 

Daines has frequently reached across the aisle on hydropower issues, including introducing a January bill with fellow Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) to authorize its use in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Sun River Project. Separately, Feinstein and Kuster introduced legislation in 2021 to put $21.1 billion toward American dams’ grid resilience and power generation.  

Hydropower facilities currently generate 7 percent of total electricity and 37 percent of renewable electricity in the U.S. The National Hydropower Association estimates that adding hydropower generation to currently non-powered Army Corps of Engineers dams could potentially generate enough electricity to power more than 2 million homes. 

Meanwhile, the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, which President Biden signed in November, included over $600 million in funding for improved hydroelectricity infrastructure. Daines was not among the 19 Republican senators to vote for the bill. 

Tags Ann McLane Kuster Ann McLane Kuster Dianne Feinstein Dianne Feinstein hydropower Joe Biden Jon Tester Steve Daines Steve Daines

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