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E&C Democrats Urge Walden and Upton to Hold a Second Hearing on Hydropower Improvements

Apr 27, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and 12 Energy Subcommittee Democrats sent a letter to Full Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today to request a second hearing on making improvements in hydropower operations, development, and licensing.  Members are requesting the hearing in order to gather testimony on hydropower licensing from representatives of states, resource agencies, and Native American Tribes.  These key entities have an intimate understanding of how the 2005 hydropower license process reforms are working, and can speak to the changes that may be necessary to improve the licensing and relicensing process. 

While the Democratic members were encouraged by the substance and tone of the Subcommittee’s March 15, 2017 hearing entitled “Modernizing Energy Infrastructure: challenges and Opportunities to Expanding Hydropower Generation,” they believe a second hearing is critical to providing a complete record with regard to the hydroelectric licensing process.

“Hydroelectric power provides substantial, virtually carbon-free, baseload energy at low cost to our manufacturing sector and to residential and commercial consumers,” the Committee Democrats wrote to Chairmen Walden and Upton.  “It is an important asset that we believe is essential to maintain.  In order to move forward on considering any legislative changes to current law in a knowledgeable manner, the Committee must hear form those who propose the conditions including licenses.”

The members expressed concern in the letter that, despite the virtually carbon-free nature of hydroelectric power generation, there are still potential environmental costs associated with hydropower.  Without proper licensing and mitigation, hydropower can have negative impacts on fish and wildlife populations, water quality, and other important physical and cultural resources.  The Federal Power Act authorizes States and federal natural resource agencies to condition hydroelectric licenses on the licensee’s ability to preserve water quality, protect public lands and Native American reservations, and ensure proper fish passage to preserve healthy ecosystems and fisheries.

The full letter to Chairmen Walden and Upton can be found here.