The House of Representatives passed an energy bill Tuesday that simplifies the steps required to license a small-scale hydropower plant.
The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act includes the Small Scale Hydropower Enhancement act introduced two years ago by Rep. Adrian Smith of Nebraska.
The measure is aimed at hydroplants similar to those near North Platte and Lexington, which produce less than 5 megawatts of electricity.
Smith proposed an exemption for plants that produce less than 1.5 megawatts. The bill goes further, exempting plants of less than 5 megawatts.
Smith said the bill will “encourage economic growth in rural America and increase domestic energy production at no cost to the taxpayers.”
He called on the Senate and President Obama to quickly enact it.
Under the bill, irrigation districts and municipalities could collaborate with local power districts to generate up to 5 megawatts of conduit hydropower without going through the lengthy Federal Regulatory Commission's permitting and exemption process.
FERC regulates the licensing and inspection of private, municipal, and state hydroelectric projects.
Smith has labored long to enact what he calls the commonsense reform. He introduced his bill in part to address the nation's energy shortage and dramatic rise in gas prices in 2008. Smith's bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee a year ago.