McMorris Rodgers bill eases red tape for hydroelectric dams



(The Center Square) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers says her newly-filed legislation would help the country to access more affordable energy.

In a Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, McMorris Rodgers raised concerns about the FERC adhering to its core mission of ensuring Americans have access to abundant, affordable, and reliable energy.

The Congresswoman argues that more hydropower, not less, is that path forward.

“Through its authority to regulate energy, natural gas, and electricity, FERC touches 7% of our economy. Without affordable and reliable energy, our economic and national security are at risk,” said McMorris Rodgers in her opening remarks.

“We have witnessed this over the past two years through President Biden’s damaging energy policies. Recent energy blackouts and rationing, as well as increased prices, have harmed American families and our industrial base,” the Congresswoman continued.

Much of the rest of her speech focused on a bill she introduced earlier in the week titled the “Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act.”

The bill, which runs counter to the current administration’s focus of removing hydropower facilities to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River Basin, would make it easier to preserve and retrofit existing facilities, bringing even cheaper, cleaner power to residents of the Pacific Northwest.

“Hydropower, water, is the largest source of clean, renewable energy in the country. In order to address climate change risk, and secure a cleaner American energy future, we must further unleash the potential of hydropower,” said McMorris Rodgers in a video promoting the bill.

Though critical of the administration around the process of dam removal, McMorris Rodgers and her office are less concerned with legitimate ecological problems, and more frustrated with the opaqueness of the process.

The goal of the congresswoman’s proposed legislation is not to ignore the ecological ramifications of the dams, but also factor in the economic ones; higher energy costs.

“The idea behind reforming the FERC licensing process is not to prevent dam breaching necessarily, it’s to make it easier for facilities to obtain or renew a license,” said Kyle VonEnde, Communications Director for the Congresswoman, via e-mail to The Center Square.

“Right now, the process is so time intensive and costly that it serves as a barrier for new projects to come online, and is too prohibitive for existing facilities to remain operational,” VonEnde continued. “In other words, this provision would seek to keep more existing hydroelectric dams online and prevent them from being essentially abandoned.”

Given that many dams are government owned but operated by quasi-public entities such as Power Utility Districts, or PUD’s, the ability to actually turn a profit matters.

It would seem power facility owner/operators agree, with the bill receiving endorsements from Northwest River Partners, the National Hydropower Association, as well as Chelan County, Grant County, and Douglas County PUD’s.

The bill still has a long way to go in the legislative process, only just having been reintroduced in committee.

The full text of the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act is available on McMorris Rodgers congressional website.

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