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Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. TIPTON. I thank Chairman Hastings for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, H.R. 678 is a commonsense piece of legislation to foster clean, renewable energy development, create rural jobs in America, and to do so without taxpayer cost, while returning revenues to the U.S. Treasury and, by all measures, should be considered low-hanging fruit, as our fellow Member has just noted, for congressional action.

There's been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the need to be able to pursue an all-of-the-above strategy. Hydropower, as the cleanest and most abundant natural energy source, should be at the forefront of any comprehensive natural energy policy.

Increased conduit hydropower serves a number of purposes. It produces renewable and emissions-free energy that can be used to pump water or sell electricity into the grid; it can generate revenue for the irrigation district to be able to help pay for aging infrastructure costs and facilitate modernization; and it can create local jobs and generate revenue to the Federal Government.

It's as simple as this poster demonstrates, as easy as putting a portable generator into moving canal water.

Many irrigation districts and electrical utilities seek to develop hydropower on Bureau of Reclamation pipes, ditches and canals; but regulatory uncertainty and the threat of unnecessary bureaucratic requirements stand in the way.

This legislation seeks to remove duplicative environmental analysis where doing so will considerably reduce costs for hydropower developers, while retaining the analysis necessary to protect valuable natural resources.

While the Bureau of Reclamation has recently begun to inventory facilities suitable for small conduit hydropower generation and develop directives and standards to help promote that end, for far too long, duplicative review for small hydropower projects on existing, manmade facilities rendered these projects financially unfeasible, and significant uncertainty still remains.

The generating units covered by H.R. 678 would be installed on entirely manmade waterways which have already received a full environmental review when they were built or rehabilitated. Any transmission associated with these projects that would result from the passage of this bill must still undergo full environmental review where they impact the environment. To require a lengthy review for dropping a small generator into a pipe simply defies logic, and we cannot pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy if we continue business as usual.

In addition to creating regulatory certainty and removing duplicative processes, this legislation authorizes power development at the agency's conduits to clear up multi-Federal agency confusion and further reduces the regulatory costs associated with hydropower development. This provision of the bill will provide the necessary statutory authority to be able to reduce litigation that the agency is sure to seek under the current framework which relies on broad authorities that do not specifically authorize hydropower development.

This legislation ensures the continued use of the Bureau facilities, primarily for water supply and irrigation, and protects the interests of those maintaining and operating these facilities by offering them the first right of refusal to take advantage of small conduit energy development projects.

Non-Federal operators know the details of the facilities best and are locally invested. As a result, it's only logical to offer them the first opportunity to develop this energy on facilities that they maintain.

Additionally, those irrigation districts with preexisting arrangements with the Bureau or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for water delivery and hydropower development will not be disturbed by this bill.

I'm proud to have the support of the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, the American Public Power Association, and the National Hydropower Association, among others.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to be able to make this public law and to start putting rural America back to work and developing clean, renewable energy.

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Mr. TIPTON. Madam Chairwoman, I offer this amendment in response to the concerns of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and at the request of the broad range of irrigation districts, water conservation and conservancy districts, and public utilities that are supporting this bill and this commonsense amendment. I'm pleased to have the support of my Democratic colleague Jim Costa on this effort and the support of the National Hydropower Association, the Family Farm Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, and the American Public Power Association.

This amendment removes the NEPA waiver in the bill and instead codifies the application of the Bureau of Reclamation's categorical exclusion process under the National Environmental Policy Act for small hydropower projects covered by this bill.

This alternative provision would still ensure streamlining the approval process for clean renewable energy and help provide certainty for investors and job creators, while providing flexibility to the Bureau to adjust to changing circumstances moving forward. By advancing these projects under the Bureau's categorical exclusion process, we ensure that all of the elements in that process are retained, including agency discretion for examining extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the amendment specifically mentions codifying the categorical exclusion process for small conduit hydropower.

This is an approach that is supported by Trout Unlimited in its March 19, 2013 letter, which states:

Congress should direct BOR to create a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower.

That's exactly what this amendment does.

The use of a categorical exclusion for small conduit hydropower development can mean the difference between private investment in a public good with a multitude of benefits, and unreasonable financial costs and lengthy delays that lead to untapped potential.

My hope is that this amendment, which is broadly supported by the diverse range of groups invested in the bill who are committed to ensuring continued environmental protection, will assuage any reservations about this effort to promote clean renewable energy and allow us to be able to move forward united in our support.

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Mr. TIPTON. Madam Chairman, we've heard talk today about creating American jobs on American soil to be able to create American energy. No bill better achieves that end than H.R. 678.

The Napolitano amendment, by striking the provision altogether that she is offering, will allow no alternative to be able to streamline the projects' approval process, and this amendment literally will ensure that small investment in small hydropower projects would not be able to be achieved. I think it's important to note we're spending $1.750 trillion per year in regulatory costs in this Nation.

Now, are all regulations bad? No, they aren't. But redundant regulations which drive up costs, which inhibit our ability to be able to create jobs to be able to put Americans back to work and to be able to create clean, affordable energy should not stand in the way.

Let's put Americans back to work. Let's work together.

The purpose of my amendment is to be able to reach a reasonable compromise between the two opposing ideas in regards to the NEPA provision on manmade projects. As Chairman Hastings just ably noted, these are manmade ditches. We have no impediment that's going to be looked at when it comes to endangered species, be it fish or wildlife. This has already gone through the desired process of environmental review. So does it make good common sense to say that an area that's been reviewed that was made by men does not have to go through an additional review process in order to be able to create those jobs and to be able to create American energy? I think that's a sensible approach for us to be able to pursue.

With that, I would urge opposition and defeat of the Napolitano amendment.

Let's get this job done and let's truly work to get Americans back to work.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. TIPTON. Madam Chairwoman, I offer this amendment to provide technical corrections and to eliminate drafting inconsistencies between this year's bill and its counterpart in the 112th Congress.

This amendment reflects changes sought by the Bureau of Reclamation with respect to definitions, to more accurately cover intended matters and properly coincide with existing law and Bureau regulations. Furthermore, the amendment clarifies that nothing in the bill affects existing arrangements between irrigation and water districts and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

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