Hydropower policy in the United States

Hydropower policy in the United States includes all the laws, rules, regulations, programs a Federal policies regarding the national water resources, within which hydropower exists, were already well-established long before modern electricity was known to exist, as such, previous uses and decisions, as well as government policies and agencies affected how hydropower was later developed Chief among federal agencies was the involvement of the United States Army Corps of Engineers

While federal policy regarding interstate waters dates to the constitutional landmark decision under the Commerce Clause in 1824, its implementation was initially limited to development of navigation and its safety, among other demands for such internal improvements Shortly thereafter, with the General Survey Act the USACE took the lead By the 1850s and increasingly later, flood control was added to the demands for improvements, as well as recognizing the need to investigate and better understand the science involved Much of these early improvements were legislated and authorized by rivers and harbors legislation and conducted by the Corps With the advent of the progressive era before the turn of the 20th century, new, different and often competing technical demands were being made for water resource improvements, including irrigation in the western states and demand for the recently developed electric power in all states

Conservation and better utilization of natural resources in a historic relationship, first became topics of concern and consideration for policy at this time The hydroelectric industry has been and remains affected by the regulations and interests of various agencies and organizations Since 1977 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been the main regulatory body for the industry Currently FERC is responsible for licensing new project construction, as well as the re-licensing, and operations oversight of existing projects, including dam safety inspections and environmental monitoring Environmental concerns and implications are evaluated by both federal and state Natural Resource agencies, Indian tribes, and state water quality agencies

Examples of such federal agencies include, but are not limited to, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Department of the Interior The National Hydropower Association is a hydropower trade organization which lobbies for policies which favor the industry Advancement of hydroelectric technology is accomplished through research and development programs, such as the Department of Energy's Hydropower Program The use of hydroelectric technology is promoted by Renewable portfolio standards and various financial incentives These financial incentives include: Renewable energy Production Tax Credits, loan Guarantees, Clean Renewable Energy Bond, and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds

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