U.S. House committee approves additional small conduit hydro development bill

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee has passed a bill that would support a piece of small conduit hydropower that is currently making its way through the Senate.

Called the “Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act” — or officially, House Resolution 1963 — the new bill is almost identical to the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678), which was passed to the Senate for voting in May.

Both bills hope to improve conditions for small hydroelectric development by cutting red tape and simplifying the permitting process for projects up to 5 MW in capacity on Reclamation-owned tunnels, canals, pipelines, aqueducts, flumes, ditches and similar manmade infrastructure.

Like its predecessor, H.R. 1963 would also apply Reclamation’s “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) in order to eliminate redundancies in the approval process.

The newer H.R. 1963 differs, however, in including language specifically pursuant to the projects that would be subject to the Water Conservation and Utilization Act or 1939.

Though H.R. 678 would cover the majority of Reclamation projects, H.R. 1963 expands the bill to include any the former might have excluded.

The proposal was introduced by Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., in May, and is co-sponsored by fellow Republicans Scott Tipton, Kevin Cramer, Doug LaMalfa and Cynthia Lummis.

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