Recently signed executive orders may help streamline U.S. hydropower licensing, relicensing process

U.S. President Trump has signed a pair of executive orders intended to streamline energy infrastructure, according to the White House.

The orders have to do mostly with liquified natural gas extraction projects and cross-border infrastructure permits. However, some of the provisions have implications for the hydropower industry.

Inefficient energy infrastructure forces Americans to depend on energy that is more expensive and less reliable,” according to a White House press release.

Specifically, Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and update the “outdated” guidance regarding certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Section 401 deals with wetland and other waterway protection in states and tribal authorities. It enables states and tribes to “review and approve, condition, or deny any federal permits or licenses that may result in a discharge to waters of United States within their borders, including wetlands,” according to the EPA’s website.

The executive order states that any decision to issue or deny a permit shall be made solely by the president. 

Delays in CWA Section 401 certifications as part of the hydropower licensing process have been an issue for several years. The new rules will hopefully shake loose the more than a dozen projects currently delayed in their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing process and help streamline the process for the more than 300 existing projects that will go through the relicensing process over the next decade.

 “The National Hydropower Association applauds and supports President Trump’s executive order, which is aimed at improving the water quality certification program under section 401 of the Clean Water Act – a key aspect of the hydropower licensing process,” said Linda Church Ciocci, president and chief executive officer of NHA. “The President’s executive order will help protect our nation’s water resources by ensuring that the states meet the Congressionally mandated deadline for acting on applications for water quality certification. Timely action by states, moreover, will help spur responsible development of the nation’s clean energy infrastructure, and particularly hydropower – America’s largest generator of renewable energy.

“At its core, President Trump has sent a clear message today that it is no longer acceptable for our nation’s vital hydropower projects to linger in uncertainty for years – at times, a decade or more – without resolution. A more efficient and effective licensing process can be achieved without sacrificing critical natural resource protections.”

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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