Bipartisan Hydropower Bill Sails Through the House of Representatives
A bill (H.R. 5892) to streamline the installation of hydropower at non-powered dams recently passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The legislation is likely to pass Congress if the clock doesn’t run out. The bill proposes to
- streamline the processes for granting licenses to install hydro at non-producing (non-powered) dams;
- allow some exemptions for small hydro and conduit projects from FERC licensing requirements; and
- extend the preliminary permit by 2 years after the initial 3 year permit if the developer has pursued permit activities in good faith and with diligence.
One Section of the bill may create significant challenges to outfitters operating below non-powered dams. "SEC. 3. PROMOTING SMALL HYDROELECTRIC POWER PROJECTS increases the size of the projects subject to exemption from standard licensing requirements at existing dams from 5,000 kilowatts to 10,000 kilowatts" “SEC. 3 Subsection (d) of section 405 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (16 U.S.C. 2705) is amended by striking `5,000' and inserting `10,000'.” The projects are not exempted from a review of environmental impacts but other considerations, including license requirements, may be waived.
According to the legislation, only 3 percent of the 80,000 dams in the United States generate electricity, so there is substantial potential for adding hydropower generation to non-powered dams. One study claims by utilizing currently untapped resources, the United States could add approximately 60,000 megawatts of new hydropower capacity by 2025, which could create 700,000 new jobs over the next 13 years.
This bill is backed by the National Hydropower Association. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) is pushing companion legislation through the Senate with bipartisan support from Democrats in the northwest, including Senators Murray (D-WA), Wyden (D-OR), Cantwell (D-WA) and Bingaman (D-NM).
Please contact email@example.com if you operate below a project and you have concerns that your operation may be impacted by this legislation.
NPS Issues Final Rule Amending Rules Governing Bicycle Use and Trails in National Parks
A Federal Register Notice issued Friday, July 6, 2012 with an effective date of August 6, 2012 amends existing regulations regarding designation of bicycle routes and construction of new trails outside developed areas. NPS responded to concerns about user conflicts by stating: “This rulemaking places more emphasis on planning and impact analysis and requires that safety and user conflict must be evaluated. Specifically, the rule requires that an existing trail cannot be designated for bicycle use unless it is determined that there will be no significant impacts, including impacts to visitor safety. The final rule also requires that ‘safety considerations [and] methods to prevent or minimize user conflicts’ be considered as part of the planning process in paragraph (d)(1)(ii).” Bicycle use will continue to be prohibited in all categories of wilderness, including eligible, study, proposed and recommended wilderness, which will be managed with the same level of protection and under the same requirements as designated wilderness.
The rule deals mostly with designation of bicycle routes on existing trails and the construction of new bicycle trails through Park planning processes, which are quite involved. Paragraph (b) of the rule addresses bicycle use on administrative roads. The rule clarifies that an administrative road closed to motor vehicle use by park visitors is also closed to bicycle use unless the superintendent makes a written determination and opens the road to such use. A brief section deals with concession contracts and CUA’s but does not appear to be significantly different since it refers to the 2005 interim guidelines.
Bicycle use on trails must be considered as part of park plan addressing trail use, such as a recreation use plan. At a minimum that plan must:
- Evaluate the suitability of existing trail surface and soil condition for accommodating bicycle use, or prescribes a sustainable trail design for the construction of new trails;
- Consider life cycle maintenance costs, safety considerations, strategies to prevent or minimize user conflict, methods of protecting natural and cultural resources, integration with commercial services and alternative transportation systems (if applicable);
- Require a trail-specific analysis in the EA or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with at least 30 days for the public to review and comment;
- When there are no significant impacts, public notice of the superintendent’s determination (made pursuant to paragraph (d)(3) of the final rule) will be published in the Federal Register;
- Requires that the superintendent, after considering public comment, submit to the appropriate NPS Regional Director for approval in writing the superintendent’s determination that bicycle use on a trail is consistent with the protection of the park area’s natural, scenic and aesthetic values, safety considerations, and management objectives and will not disturb wildlife or park resources.
The rule also:
- clarifies that all planning and compliance must be completed before designation of trails for bicycle use;
- For existing trails, the final rule prohibits bicycle use where significant impacts would occur. For existing trails, even when the environmental compliance analysis has found no significant impacts, the appropriate NPS Regional Director may decide that bicycle use is not consistent with the resources, values, and purposes of the park area, and, after considering public comment on the written determination required by the final rule, withhold approval.
Having Problems with Your Federal Motor Carrier Authorization (OP-1)? We May Be Able to Help.
If you have applied for an MC number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as a new applicant and have been put on the 20 week approval schedule, please give David Brown in the AOA office a call at 865-558-3595. We may be able to help.