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Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of H.R. 678, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.

Those of us from the Pacific Northwest know and understand the importance of hydropower and the significant role it plays in our economy. In my home State of Washington, hydropower produces 70 percent of our power, and it helps keep electricity rates low and affordable for our residents.

It is one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of electricity, and helps make other intermittent sources of renewable energy, like wind and solar, possible.

Yet too often, as is frequently the case with energy projects on Federal lands, the development of new hydropower gets caught up in bureaucratic red tape and regulations.

Today's bill, sponsored by our colleague from Colorado, Mr. Tipton, would cut through that red tape to expand the development of small conduit hydropower. Specifically, it clears up Federal agency confusion by directly authorizing hydropower development at almost 47,000 miles of Bureau of Reclamation canals. It also streamlines the regulatory process for developing small canal and pipeline hydropower projects on existing Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

Mr. Chairman, I want to stress the point that these new projects will only be at existing facilities. These existing man-made facilities have already gone through extensive environmental review when they were initially built. Requiring duplicative reviews on existing facilities only imposes unnecessary delays and, thus, administrative costs.

I realize that the Bureau of Reclamation has come up with its own version of streamlining since we considered this bill in the last Congress, but it's only a theoretical version of streamlining since it has never been used in the 6 months after it was created. This bill simply streamlines the regulatory and administrative process so that water users can be free to develop hydropower at the Federal canals they already operate and maintain.

This bill will help generate thousands of megawatts of clean, cheap, abundant hydropower and, thus, will bring in new revenue to the Federal Government and, more importantly, Mr. Chairman, create new American jobs. Best of all, we can do this at no cost to the American taxpayer. This is exactly the type of commonsense proposal that Republicans support as part of the all-of-the-above energy plan. Hydropower must be part of the solution. Families and small businesses rely on access to affordable electricity, and this bill is a simple way to lower prices by expanding production on one of the best forms of clean, renewable energy.

Mr. Chairman, nearly identical legislation passed the House last Congress with bipartisan support. I hope the House will once again do so today, and that the Senate will take action on this job-creating energy bill.

I want to thank particularly members of the Natural Resources Committee Mr. Tipton of Colorado, Mr. Gosar of Arizona, and Mr. Costa of California for their tremendous work on this bill and for being strong champions of small-scale hydropower production.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Chairman, before I yield time to the gentlelady from Wyoming, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I find the gentleman's argument on the other side rather striking because he's talking about American-made jobs and another piece of legislation not associated with this. And I would just point out, what could be more American-made jobs than putting hydropower facilities on American soil? That creates jobs. That's what this bill is all about.

And the second point, the gentleman mentioned the rare Earth issue that we have. Last Congress, we passed legislation here so we could utilize the known rare Earth supplies we have in this country, and it was the other body, controlled by the gentleman's own party, that didn't act on it. And he sounds like it is a big, big issue now. I suspect we may have, Madam Chairman, that legislation again in front of us, and I would hope that we could elicit the gentleman's support when that bill comes to the floor.

With that, Madam Chairman, I am very pleased to yield 2 minutes to the gentlelady from Wyoming (Mrs. Lummis), a valuable member of the Natural Resources Committee.


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

This debate has been rather interesting, because it sounds like on the floor there is widespread support for the concept of this bill. And why shouldn't there be? After all, there are 47,000 miles of canals and ditches that could be utilized for energy production.

There seems to be one problem, and that problem revolves around NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, which was put in place, by the way, in 1969. I'm not going do say there's a direct correlation between NEPA and the lack of Bureau of Reclamation projects, but it is very interesting that most of the great projects that were built in the West were built prior to NEPA.

There were environmental statutes on the book, Madam Chairwoman, back then, and they are all satisfied. I happen to live in central Washington. There are two great projects in central Washington--the Columbia Basin Project and the Yakima River Project; in total, probably over a million acres of irrigated land.

Here is the truism, Madam Chairwoman. What we are talking about are our facilities where water is running through them, water is running downhill. We all know that water running downhill creates a certain amount of energy. All we want to do is capture that energy. With the prior chart that the gentleman from California put up, most of the States that will benefit by this are from the West. That means that we can make the desert bloom even more in the West if we utilize these facilities.

Finally, I just want to make one other observation. My good friend from California was saying that, okay, this is like a bill we had last year. We passed it; the Senate didn't do anything. Well, I would just remind the gentlelady, and she should know this, and I know she does, we are two distinct bodies, the House and the Senate. If they have a different view, for goodness sake, pass something. If it's different than our view, then we'll figure out how to come together. But to simply say, this is a good piece of legislation but we don't like NEPA, therefore, don't pass it because the Senate won't take it up, is not doing our job.

Madam Chairman, this is a good piece of legislation. There are some amendments that will be following. We can get into more detail on those. But I urge my colleagues to support passage of this legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Madam Chair, I just want to make a point because at the end of the general debate, I brought up the issue of NEPA that everybody says this is a wonderful bill except this part. Of course, the gentlelady's amendment strikes the NEPA waiver, which I pointed out again at the end of the general debate there seems to be somewhat cause and effect of having NEPA and having projects go forward.

But here is the important point on this, Madam Chairman, from my point of view: this bill deals with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Reclamation that built ditches and conduits out of concrete generally. Again, I spoke of the Columbia Basin Project in my district and the Yakima Project in my district, and virtually all of the ditches are concrete. That means that the land has already been disturbed in order to put these facilities in place.

What the gentleman from Colorado's bill does is simply put a power source within the existing ditches that have gone through environmental review. Why, for goodness' sakes, would you have to jump through more hoops, unless you wanted to slow the process down? Why you'd want to do that, I don't know, because the end result of this is probably less expensive energy. It's certainly American jobs, and it probably adds to a growing economy. Yet there seems to be some idea that only NEPA can save us from all of that.

Well, I reject that, and that's why I oppose the gentlelady's amendment because it would waive that requirement.

Once again, Madam Chairman, this is on existing facilities that have gone through environmental review. It doesn't need to jump through that hoop one more time.

With that, I urge opposition to this amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, during the course of debate today, it was mentioned several times--which of course is true--that virtually identical legislation passed in the last Congress with bipartisan support. I find it rather ironic that the author of this motion to recommit last year voted for this bill without the motion to recommit language in it. So I think we have some common ground and we're making some progress, and I thank the gentleman for his vote on that.

But let's talk about what this bill does. This bill takes existing American facilities, like irrigation ditches, and says, my goodness, water running downhill has a sense of energy to it; we ought to somehow capture that energy. The gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tipton) says: Why don't we put turbines in there and create American energy? Wonderful idea. So that's what this bill is all about. Nothing in this bill prevents anything that the gentleman is proposing in his motion to recommit.

But I will just close by saying what this bill really does and what the essence of what we're talking about here today. This bill creates American jobs and American energy at no cost to the taxpayer. What else is there to say? Vote ``no'' on the motion to recommit.


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