Cantwell-Newhouse bill would benefit Banks Lake Hydro project


Last updated 5/19/2021 at 7:08am

A Senate Democrat and a House Republican have teamed up to introduce a bill that would benefit a local push to build a new energy plant in Grand Coulee.

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse (R, WA-04) reintroduced legislation this week to improve permitting for pumped storage hydroelectric projects and protect tribal interests in the process. The bill will also help increase renewable energy production, storage, and job growth in the Pacific Northwest.

“Pumped storage projects help integrate renewable energy into our power grid and drive down costs for consumers,” Sen. Cantwell said in a press release. “This legislation will help increase our use of carbon-free power and create jobs in Eastern Washington.”

“This legislation enhances our region’s hydropower capabilities while strengthening Washington’s leadership in our nation’s pathway to a clean energy future,” said Rep. Newhouse. “By streamlining the permitting process for pumped storage projects, we can encourage investment across the country. More immediately, this bill will pave the way for a pumped storage project right here in Central Washington that will create jobs, improve our storage capabilities, and increase our supply of clean, carbon-free energy.”

Pumped hydropower storage generates electricity by pumping water between two reservoirs when electricity prices and demand are high. Currently, both the Bureau of Reclamation and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have jurisdiction over non-federal hydropower development at Bureau of Reclamation facilities. The requirement for two separate permitting processes is inefficient, drives up project costs, and can be a disincentive for pumped storage development at facilities that have to go through both processes.

There is only one active non-federal pumped storage project that is facing dual processes. Columbia Basin Hydropower, which delivers water to approximately 700,000 acres in Northeast Washington, has proposed a pumped storage project called the Banks Lake Storage Project—a $1.4 billion, 500-megawatt project in Grand Coulee that would pump water between Banks Lake and Lake Roosevelt to provide more energy storage and increase the use of renewable energy. The project is expected to create approximately 1,000 construction jobs. The Pacific Northwest Pumped Storage Hydropower Development Act of 2021 would provide sole jurisdiction to the Bureau of Reclamation for the Banks Lake Storage Project, while also protecting the rights of tribes in the permitting process.

“Columbia Basin Hydropower commends Senator Cantwell and Congressman Newhouse for their unwavering commitment to promote renewable energy infrastructure by introducing The Pacific Northwest Pumped Storage Hydropower Development Act of 2021. This commonsense legislation will open the door for the Pacific Northwest to add 500 megawatts or more of clean hydroelectric power, energy storage, and other ancillary services to its electric grid. We encourage Congress to move this bipartisan legislation across the finish line,” said Darvin Fales, Secretary-Manager at Columbia Basin Hydropower.


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