Rush Floor Remarks on Hydropower Policy Modernization Act
Subcommittee on Energy Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today during consideration of the Hydropower Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3043):
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 3043, the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act of 2017.
Mr. Speaker, while Members on both sides of the aisle support hydropower, unfortunately, the bill before us today is deeply flawed and will not modernize or improve the hydropower licensing process.
Instead, Mr. Speaker, H.R. 3043 would place private profits above the public interest, by giving priority of our public waterways to industry in order to generate power and profits, over and above the rights and interests of Native Tribes, farmers, fishermen, boaters, and other stakeholders who also rely on these public rivers and streams.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to remember that hydroelectric licenses can span between 30-50 years, and under existing law a license holder can be granted automatic yearly extensions in perpetuity without even ever having to re-apply.
Mr. Speaker, this issue is too important for us not to get this right.
And what does H.R. 3043 actually do?
Mr. Speaker, this bill would make Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the lead agency over the licensing process and would require Native Tribes, the States, and federal resource agencies to pay deference to the Commission even in areas where FERC has absolutely no expertise or statutory authority, including on issues regarding agricultural water use, drinking water protection, fisheries management, and recreational river use.
Additionally, Mr. Speaker, H.R. 3043 would expand and alter the trial-type hearing provisions of the Federal Power Act, essentially rigging the process in favor of industry, by providing multiple new entry points to challenge conditions designed by federal resource agencies.
Mr. Chairman, the threat of these timely and costly hearings may be used to coerce agencies to propose weaker conditions, and at the same time this bill also shifts the venue for these hearings to FERC, which is another handout to industry.
Mr. Speaker, in testimony before the Energy and Commerce Committee we heard repeatedly that a major cause for licensing delays was due to incomplete applications that do not include all the pertinent information necessary to issue a decision, however, H.R. 3043 does nothing to address this issue.
In fact, this bill would implement strict timelines on federal resource agencies, States, and Tribes but does not require applicants to submit all of their information into these agencies before the clock actually starts.
Mr. Speaker, FERC itself disputed claims that this bill would streamline the licensing process, noting that the legislation “could increase the complexity and length of the licensing process.”
Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow hydropower facilities to claim a monopoly over our public waterways without mitigating the negative impacts of these facility on others who rely on these resources and without complying with modern environmental laws.
H.R. 3043 is opposed by states, by Native Tribes, by the outdoor recreation industry and by more than 150 national and local environmental organizations.
Mr. Speaker, it is for all of these reasons that I too must oppose this bill and urge all of my colleagues to do the same.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and with that I reserve the balance of my time.