Bill H.R. 3043 is scheduled to go to the house floor next week. This bill is a devastating assault on our nation’s rivers and the people and wildlife that depend upon them. Its passage would end 95 years of balance in the hydropower licensing, tipping the scales again taxpayers in favor of big utilities. No state, tribe, or conservation organization supports this bill.
Hydropower licenses are issued for up to 50 years. Many hydropower facilities that are coming up for relicensing now were constructed before virtually all modern environmental laws were in place. It is during relicensing proceedings that the public gets the opportunity to mitigate for the damage to the environment, while still providing reliable electricity, only arises once in a generation or two.
H.R.3043 attempts to streamline the hydropower licensing process. This quick process will not give enough time for federal, state or tribal agencies to competently exercise their Clean Water Act or Endangered Species Act authority.
Among other things, HR 3043:
- Grants Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) jurisdiction over permits and special use authorizations over federal land to access hydropower projects,
- Allows FERC to refer Clean Water Act disputes (how state environmental and fish and wildlife agencies participate in hydroelectric licensing) to the EPA and Army Corps,
- Creates a deadline after which federal resource managers are unable to place conditions on licenses to protect trust resources (including under the Endangered Species Act), and
- Further complicates the already onerous trial-type hearing processes agencies must go through to justify their conditions on hydro licenses
Hydroelectric licenses are granted for 30-50 years. The ability to influence one comes only once in a generation. H.R. 3043 seeks to limit the amount of input and the participation of stakeholders.