Hydroelectric advocates are touting a bill that was approved by the Legislature and is now heading to the governor’s desk.
The measure would expedite permitting for small-scale hydro-electric projects. River geologist Lori Barg says removing some red tape will make it easier for towns to build low- to no impact hydro dams.
"You can spend literally hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars going through the permitting process," Barg says. "Hydro is the only renewable energy that is federally regulated."
Hydroelectric projects are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act because they involve damming U.S. waters.
Skeptics of the renewable energy say it’s still too costly for cities and towns and will only leave them in the red.
The bill, which Governor Shumlin is expected to sign in the coming weeks, would require the commissioner of public service to enter into an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It’s modeled after similar legislation in Colorado, where lawmakers have simplified the authorization of small-scale hydro-power projects.