The US Senate could vote this month on a pair of hydropower bills and an energy efficiency bill, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said May 8.
These bills were approved by Wyden’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday and Wyden said Senate leaders have indicated these bills could be up for a full Senate vote before the congressional recess at the end of the month.
The committee on Wednesday unanimously approved the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013, S. 545, and its House companion bill, H.R. 267.
The bills, sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on Wyden’s energy committee, and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rogers, Republican-Washington, and Diana DeGette, Democrat-Colorado, would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission new authority for preliminary permits.
It would also increase the threshold for license exemptions for certain projects to 10 MW from 5 MW, calls on FERC to look at creating a two-year licensing process and would require the Energy Department to study the benefits and opportunities for pumped-storage facilities and conduit hydropower.
The committee Wednesday also unanimously approved the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act, S. 306, and its House companion bill, H.R. 678, which would streamline small hydropower projects on canals, aqueducts and other Bureau of Reclamation conduits. The bills, which would also add “power” as an authorized activity on all water conduits owned by the agency, are sponsored by Representative Scott Tipton, Republican-Colorado, and Senator John Barrasso, Republican-Wyoming.
The hydropower bills were both overwhelmingly approved in the House earlier this year.
The committee Wednesday also approved, by a 19-3 vote, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, S. 761, which Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, introduced last month. The bill would strengthen US building codes to make new homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient and create a Department of Energy program aimed at improving the efficiency of commercial supply chains. It also includes provisions to expand the use of electric and natural gas vehicles by the federal government.
Republican Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tim Scott of South Carolina voted against the bill.
Shaheen and Portman removed some of the more contentious elements of previous efficiency legislation, such as calling on DOE to expand its loan program to pay for retrofitting buildings for efficiency gains, which drew criticism following the bankruptcy of solar company Solyndra, which had participated in the DOE’s loan-guarantee program.
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