H.R. 3043 modernizes the regulatory permitting process and encourages the expansion of hydropower generation by improving administrative efficiency, accountability, and transparency; promotes new hydropower infrastructure; requires balanced and timely decision making; and reduces duplicative oversight.
Specifically, the legislation establishes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency for all hydropower authorizations, approvals, and requirements mandated by federal law. The bill modifies the definition of renewable energy to include hydropower, extends the timeframe for a preliminary permit from 3 to 4 years, and extends the time limit for construction “for not more than 8 additional years.”
The legislation also establishes procedures for trial-type hearings conducted by an Administrative Law Judge to resolve disputes relating to conditions and fishway prescriptions under Part I of the Federal Power Act. In addition, the legislation facilitates the timely and efficient completion of license proceedings by minimizing duplication of studies and establishing a program to compile a comprehensive collection of studies and data on a regional or basin-wide scale.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Nov 8, 2017.
Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017
(Sec.2)This bill designates the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for coordinating all federal authorizations and reviews related to hydropower license applications, including compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.FERC must establish a process to set a schedule for the review and disposition of each federal authorization following the filing of an application for a license.
The bill expands the definition of "renewable energy" to include electric energy generated from hydropower projects.The bill authorizes FERC to extend the length of time of preliminary permits and to extend the time limit that a licensee has to commence construction on a hydropower project.
(Sec.3)The bill authorizes the use of trial-type hearings to resolve disputes related to a hydropower license application. Under certain circumstances, the hearing may be demanded by applicants or other parties for any disputed issues of material fact.
FERC must consult with federal and state agencies and the public to compile best practices for performing studies and environmental reviews in connection with the timely and efficient completion of hydropower license proceedings.
The bill creates a process to approve license amendments for qualifying hydropower projects.
(Sec.5)The Department of Commerce and the Department of the Interior must consider the threat of invasive species when prescribing a fishway. (Fishways are structures placed on or around constructed barriers to give fish the opportunity to migrate.)
(Sec.6) FERC may examine the license for any project that is located in an area that was declared to be a disaster area in 2017.