Hydroelectric power is an efficient and clean source of power. In an era when air emissions dominate public concern about the environmental effects of the energy sector, it is a paradox that among the most highly regulated energy projects are hydroelectric dams, which do not combust fuel. This is partly due to a failure of successive statutory enactments,which have transformed hydroelectric licensing from a regulatory “one-stop shop” with a single regulator, to a process chained to a bewilderingnumber of often conflicting regulatory agencies, often riven with delay. Hydroelectric licensing has also failed because its capacious standard of review encourages special-interest groups with even a marginal interest to seek rents from regulated users. Even with the introduction of dispute resolution, and the possibility of obtaining exemptions, the barriers to hydroelectric permitting and relicensing are excessive. Fortunately, a number of reforms would ease the regulatory burden on hydroelectric power expansion, while still considering and addressing environmental concerns.
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