LETTER: Hydropower Licensing Authorities

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July 18, 2016

Honorable Fred Upton, Chairman
Energy and Commerce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Honorable Frank J. Pallone, Jr., Ranking Member
Energy and Commerce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
2322A Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Upton and Ranking Member Pallone:

Western Governors recognize the importance of renewable energy sources, including hydropower. The West accounts for nearly 70 percent of the nation’s hydroelectric power generation, and the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s largest hydropower‐producing region. Western Governors support improving the efficiency of existing hydropower systems and
increasing the amount of electricity generated from new, retrofitted, or relicensed hydroelectric facilities.

Western Governors are concerned about provisions in Subtitle B: Hydropower Regulatory Modernization of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015 (H.R. 8). This subtitle would designate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as lead agency for all hydropower authorizations, approvals and requirements mandated by federal law, including hydropower facility licenses and amendments, as well as all permits, special use authorizations, certifications, and opinions. (1)

States are vested with authority to manage water within their borders, and they have the right to develop, use, control and distribute surface water and ground water within state boundaries. As expressed in section B(1)(a) of WGA Policy Resolution 2015‐08: Water Resource Management in the West (attached for your reference):

While the Western Governors acknowledge the important role of federal laws such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, nothing in any act of Congress or Executive Branch regulatory action should be construed as affecting or intending to affect states’ primacy over the allocation and administration of their water resources.

We understand that members of the hydropower industry have expressed concern that state licensing processes generally, and state water quality certifications under section 401 of the Clean Water Act specifically, can be overly time‐consuming.

It is crucial, however, that state water quality certifications and other necessary state procedures be undertaken in a careful, deliberate manner. Hydropower licenses may have a term in excess of 50 years, and those rights granted in a hydropower license directly affect the quality and quantity of state water, state wildlife and other resources.

We note also that western states have taken proactive steps to reduce hydropower licensing and relicensing timelines and initiated programs that increase intra‐state agency coordination and coordination between states, project proponents and federal partners. These efforts have proven effective at reducing licensing and relicensing timelines, while also ensuring protection of water and other state resources.

Western Governors request that language in Subtitle B of H.R. 8 be removed or amended so that existing state hydropower licensing authorities are not replaced or in any way impeded by FERC jurisdiction. Western Governors request that the Energy and Commerce Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives take these concerns into account as resolution of the differences between H.R. 8 and the Senate’s North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S. 2012) is pursued.


Steve Bullock
Governor of Montana
Chair, WGA

Dennis Daugaard
Governor of South Dakota
Vice Chair, WGA

cc: Honorable Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader
Honorable Harry M. Reid, Senate Minority Leader
Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

(1) North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, Section 1203(a)(1)
and (2).

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