What They Are Saying: Industry and Community Leaders Endorse Daines’ Bipartisan Hydropower Bill

U.S. SENATE – Since introducing the bipartisan “Community and Hydropower Improvement Act” that would streamline the permitting process for hydropower projects, increase tribal engagement and oversight, expedite low impact projects, promote healthy habitat and coordinate federal decision making, Daines has received an outpouring of support from key stakeholders. 

“In response to the threat posed by looming relicensing, the hydropower industry, environmental organizations, dam safety advocates, and tribal representatives, have negotiated a holistic licensing reform package that creates common ground to preserve and enhance the existing hydropower fleet while ensuring that environmental concerns are addressed, and the rights of tribal nations are respected. The bill would also create a streamlined two-year process for adding generation to non-powered dams and a three-year process for closed loop or off-stream pumped storage. These compromises are embodied in the text of the Community and Hydropower Improvement Act, and we believe this compromise reform proposal will help ensure the long- term viability of the hydropower industry by reducing administrative uncertainty and red tape in the licensing and relicensing process…” Read the full letter from 25 hydropower industry leaders HERE.

“As former Commissioners and Chairs of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appointed by both Democratic and Republican Presidents, we believe Congress should update the federal hydropower licensing process. We are pleased representatives of the hydropower industry, the environmental community, and Tribal Nations have put aside their previous differences and come together through the Uncommon Dialogue to propose significant reforms to the provisions addressing hydropower licensing in the Federal Power Act (FPA). We strongly urge you to consider their proposal…” Read the full letter from former FERC Chairman and Commissioners HERE.

“Hydropower is critical to achieving the goal of a resilient and reliable, zero-carbon electricity grid, and this bill seeks to protect and advance this critical energy resource by strengthening and expediting the FERC licensing process, better informing agency decision making, assuring environmental stewardship, and improving coordination among all relicensing participants. The existing regulatory process is unnecessarily time consuming and expensive. With a historic number of projects coming up for relicensing and growing interest in developing new hydropower resources at existing non-powered dams and new closed-loop pumped storage, this bill will help safeguard and expand vital hydropower resources in an environmentally responsible manner, improve grid stability and security, and advance our trajectory towards a clean electricity grid. The hydropower industry applauds the leadership of Senator Daines and Cantwell for advancing this bipartisan effort.” — Malcolm Woolf, CEO & President of the National Hydropower Association. 

“The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) applauds Senator Cantwell and Senator Daines for their introduction of the Community and Hydropower Improvement Act. This piece of legislation will update regulations that will empower Tribal Nations and recognize their inherent decision-making authority to prevent future environmental and economic destruction on tribal lands, and allow greater cooperation with federal and state partners. NCAI has and will continue to advocate for its passage and signing into law.” — NCAI Executive Director Larry Wright, Jr. 

“This is a package of smart, strategic updates to make the process work better for everyone. Healthy rivers are essential to all life. By improving the process for licensing, relicensing and decommissioning dams, and by restoring autonomy and self-determination to Tribal Nations, we will improve outcomes for rivers, the electric grid, and communities nationwide.” — Tom Kiernan, President of American Rivers

“Improving the licensing and relicensing of hydropower generation, a key source of dispatchable clean energy, is critical as we work to secure a resilient electric grid, reduce global emissions, and protect our natural resources. The Community and Hydropower Improvement Act (S. 1521) is a sensible bill that will balance the need for a more predictable permitting process, promote energy storage and clean energy, and ensure environmental integrity of our American resources. BPC Action stands with Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in support of this important bill and encourages Congress to enact it this year.” – Michele Stockwell, President of BPC Action

“As a former FERC Chair, I support this bill because hydropower is essential to a 24/7, reliable, clean energy grid. Hydropower is a domestic source of clean, baseload electricity and plays a critical role in balancing intermittent wind and solar. I commend Senators Daines and Cantwell, along with the various stakeholders, for developing this sensible approach to improve the hydropower licensing and relicensing process.” — Neil Chatterjee, former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Chair

“As an emissions-free resource, hydropower can play a critical role in our clean energy future. The Daines-Cantwell bill proposes several meaningful reforms to the hydro licensing process that will enable hydropower to thrive in an environmentally responsible manner.” — Richard Glick, former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair.

“The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes strongly support the introduction of the Community and Hydropower Improvement Act. This measure would finally give Tribes a place at the table in the licensing and relicensing of hydroelectric projects that are on our lands and impact our Treaty protected resources. This is truly historic. We would like to thank Senator Daines for his leadership on this issue.” — CSKT Chairman Tom McDonald. 

“I have spent my life addressing the impact of the Cushman Dam licensing, which until recently did not take into consideration the impact of Tacoma Public Utility dams and hydroelectric facilities on the Skokomish Reservation, Skokomish Tribal Members and community, and Treaty protected resources the people depend upon for their cultural, physical, and economic well-being. The introduction of the Community and Hydropower Improvement Act is truly historic in that for the first time Tribes will be able to set the conditions for projects that are on their lands instead of having to rely on some far away trustee to do what they think is in our best interest.” — Joseph Pavel, former Chairman of the Skokomish Tribe, WA and current Tribal Natural Resources Director.

“Hydroelectricity makes up 35% of NorthWestern Energy’s electric generation. Clean, stable and reliable electricity has been being generated for our Montana customers at our 11 hydro projects, in many cases, for over 100 years…. The Community and Hydroelectric Improvement Act (CHIA) will help us in this pursuit by improving the licensing process under the Federal Power Act. Specifically, requirements will be tied explicitly to project effects, inefficiencies in licensing will be avoided by improved coordination among regulatory agencies and licensing timeframes for pump storage will be shortened and streamlined.” — Shannon Heim, General Counsel, NorthWestern Energy. 

“In Washington, hydropower plays a critical role in delivering clean, renewable energy, and we are pleased to support this effort to strengthen the hydropower licensing process. This effort is the result of the river community, Tribes and the hydropower industry working collaboratively to protect and expand the U.S. hydropower fleet, while safeguarding the health of rivers. We applaud the leadership of Senators Cantwell and Daines, and urge Congress to pass this legislation” — Debra Smith, General Manager and CEO, Seattle City Light

“The Community and Hydropower Improvement Act proposes practical improvements to reduce delay and conflict in the licensing process. It improves coordination among agencies on schedule and information gathering. It clarifies information requirements for economic analysis, models, and fish passage. And it requires development of a clear decommissioning process when project owners decide their hydropower project no longer provides value for themselves, the grid, and ratepayers.” — Chris Shutes, Executive Director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

“Hydropower is one of our nation’s most underutilized forms of renewable, carbon-free energy. CRES applauds Senators Steve Daines and Maria Cantwell for leading this bipartisan legislation to empower the United States to harness the power of our rivers and promote an all-of-the-above energy strategy that strengthens our energy security and reduces emissions.” — Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES). 

“Over the last several decades American Whitewater has engaged in over 100 hydropower license proceedings that have restored flows to rivers and improved river health. This legislation will lead to critical process improvements that include analysis of project economics in changing energy markets, evaluation of climate change and its impact on water availability for energy generation, and recognition of Tribal sovereignty. For projects that have reached the end of their useful life, the legislation directs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish procedures for license surrender that include predictable timelines and opportunities for public participation.” — Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater.

“EEI’s member companies rely on a diverse and domestic energy mix to generate the resilient clean energy we need to power our lives. While hydropower is an essential part of this energy mix, the licensing process needs to be updated so that America’s electric companies can unlock its full potential. We applaud Senators Daines and Cantwell for their leadership on a reform package to improve the federal hydropower licensing process. The package will increase efficiencies and inter-agency coordination, promote transparency, and reduce costs. An efficient and timely licensing process for new and existing hydropower projects will be essential to the ongoing clean energy transition.” – Phil Moeller, EEI Executive Vice President of Business Operations Group and Regulatory Affairs.

“The Northern California Power Agency sees this legislation as a significant step in the right direction that rationalizes the hydropower relicensing process to ensure these valuable resources continue to operate. Hydropower is a clean energy solution for grid reliability. The licensing process must encourage this resource, not stymie it, and meaningful streamlining objectives can clearly be achieved without undermining environmental review. We applaud Senator Daines for his leadership in ensuring the protection of this vital resource.” — Northern California Power Agency.