Throughout June 2020, a number of legislative proposals poised to impact hydropower resources have been introduced in Congress.  On Monday, June 22, Democratic members of the House of Representatives released H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, which aims to encourage investment in infrastructure and includes several provisions on hydropower and dam safety.  On Monday June 29, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) introduced the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act which includes updates to the licensing process for non-federal hydroelectric projects and promotes innovation of new generation technologies that would protect the environment and natural resources while providing additional reliability services to the nation’s electric grid.  Finally, on June 30, Democratic members of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released a Climate Crisis Action Plan, which includes provisions on hydropower and marine energy facilities.
Continue Reading Federal Hydropower Legislative Proposals Introduced on Capitol Hill

As the California Legislature prepares its 2021 budget and continues to address the impacts of COVID-19, the Subcommittee 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation (Subcommittee) proposed language in a trailer bill related to the State Water Resources Control Board’s (Water Board) authority to issue water quality certifications under section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for federally licensed and permitted activities.  If enacted, the bill purportedly would authorize the Water Board to meet the one-year action requirement under CWA section 401 by issuing a water quality certification—even if California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements are not met.  Further, the bill seeks to authorize the Water Board to make any changes to conditions in the water quality certification at a later date after CEQA requirements are met.
Continue Reading Legislative Proposal in California Seeks to Avoid Waiver for Water Quality Certifications Under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act

On April 21, 2020, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (“NRECA”), an organization that represents the interests of over 900 electric cooperatives nationally, issued a fact sheet projecting that COVID-19’s economic impact on electric cooperatives will total an estimated $10 billion through 2022. This fact sheet follows an April 6, 2020 letter from the CEO of NRECA to congressional leaders requesting legislative remedies to help address the challenges currently facing electric cooperatives as a result of COVID-19. Among other things, NRECA explains that, absent federal assistance in the form of federal funding and repricing of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Rural Utilities Services (“RUS”) debt, co-ops may face severe financial distress due to prohibitions against utility disconnections, increasing electric bill nonpayment, and loss of load.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Projected to Cause a Multi-Billion Dollar Hit to Electric Cooperatives

On April 7, 2020, FERC and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”), the national organization representing state public service commissions, sent a letter to the Federal Reserve supporting a request from the Edison Electric Institute (“EEI”), the American Gas Association and the National Association of Water Companies (together, the “Trade Groups”) to expand access to short-term debt available to the utility industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, as utilities are facing decreasing load and increasing bill nonpayment.
Continue Reading FERC and NARUC Join EEI and Other Trade Groups’ Request to the Federal Reserve to Expand Access to Short-Term Debt During the COVID-19 Crisis

On March 5, 2020, the United States Senate approved a motion to proceed on the American Energy Innovation Act (“AEIA”), S. 2657, after a cloture vote was called on the motion by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in order to move the bill to the Senate floor. However, on March 9, 2020, at least two measures to limit debate on the bill itself were rejected—opening the door for numerous floor amendments, including legislative language to limit greenhouse gas emissions that is projected to be offered by Senate Democrats.

The AEIA is a compendium of energy-related statutory provisions which was released in an omnibus, bipartisan legislative package on February 27, 2020 by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.). Senators Murkowski and Manchin offered a substitute amendment featuring the full text of the AEIA (Amendment 1407) after the motion to proceed was voted-out affirmatively, and they are acting as floor managers for the bill.

Among other things, the bill focuses on advancements and development of energy storage and hydropower resources. In particular, as described in greater detail below, the bill directs FERC to initiate a rulemaking on cost recovery for energy storage assets and extends authorization for certain incentives to develop generation at non-powered or already-powered dams. The Committee held approximately 12 months of hearings on many of the proposed legislation’s components. If enacted, the bill would constitute the first major piece of national energy legislation since the Energy Policy Act of 2005, after a twelve-year hiatus in significant congressional activity.
Continue Reading Bipartisan American Energy Innovation Act Being Considered on Floor of U.S. Senate