The National Hydropower Association awarded four members of Congress with NHA Legislator of the Year awards for their roles in championing hydroelectric power legislation through the House and Senate.
Honored during the NHA Annual Conference's opening session were Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) for their work on the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013.
The bill, which was enacted by President Barack Obama in August, represents the only piece of energy-related legislation to have passed Congress this past year.
The bill promotes the development of small and in-conduit hydropower projects and shortens the regulatory timeframes required of certain other low-impact hydropower project, including additions to existing non-powered infrastructure and closed-loop pumped-storage. These additions could account for more than 12,000 MW of additional hydroelectric power, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
"We could not have done it without the incredible leadership and support of our congressional champions that we honor here this afternoon," said Marc Gerken, President of NHA and American Municipal Power.
NHA has awarded just five Legislator of the Year honors since the organization was created in 1983, Gerken said, making today's presentation unprecedented.
"It means two things," Gerken said. "One, that we have a lot to celebrate, and two, that we have outstanding leadership in the House and Senate that cares about hydropower. We're making progress."
Though hydropower is making inroads through both parties and both Congressional chambers, the legislators agreed more work remains to be done.
"We know there's huge potential for hydropower moving forward, and that's what we need to continue to advocate," McMorris Rogers said. "It would create jobs. It's important to our economy. It's important to the future of energy. So I am proud to be a partner in this effort and I want to continue to look for these opportunities to tell the positive story of hydropower and the potential that it has for us moving forward."DeGette, who co-authored the bill with McMorris Rodgers, was also present during the opening session.
"Hydropower has provided the U.S. with affordable and reliable energy for over 130 years, and we are still finding ways to tap its potential," DeGette said. "I was proud that the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act passed Congress and was signed into law. We are helping smaller communities and projects across the country take advantage of hydropower's flexibility, and we are creating jobs and cutting electricity bills at the same time."
Murkowski, who addressed attendees with a recorded message, is the ranking Republican of the Senate Energy Committee and first introduced a version of the legislation to the Senate in 2010.
"It was only by working together -- not only across the aisle, but across the two chambers -- that we were able to enact the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act last session," Murkoski said. "The enactment of this bipartisan bill furthers Americans' access to the most cost-effective and reliable source of energy available to us.
"It is my hope that as the Senate considers our nation's long-term energy policy we can finally recognize the important contributions the renewable resource hydropower makes and continues to make to our clean energy goals." Wyden, as former chair of the Senate's Energy Committee, was also key in making the bill a top priority.
"This is a reflection of the work NHA has done to show legislators what it already knew -- that hydropower is a clean, baseload renewable source of power capable of cutting millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of the equation," Wyden said. "I'm going to continue working with my colleagues to build on the successes of the past year in bringing hydropower to millions of American homes."