The Decline of the Hydropower Czar and the Rise of Agency Pluralism in Hydroelectric Licensing

Contributor Roles

Viki A Nadol, L.L.M. candidate, Lewis & Clark Law School

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Publication Title

Columbia Journal of Environmental Law

Journal Abbreviation

Colum. J. Env't L.


This article explains the numerous environmental protections contained in an unlikely statute, the Federal Power Act, first enacted in 1920. Federally licensed hydropower projects are often the largest influences on streamflows in watersheds, so making the projects environmentally compatible is no small achievement. This article examines the history of federal hydroelectric licensing, its environmental effects, and several important judicial interpretations of the provisions of the Federal Power Act calling for protection of federal public land reserves and the provision of "fishways" at licensed projects as well as water quality standards compliance under the Clean Water Act. None of these substantive protections were changed by the procedural complexities imposed in the 2005 Energy Policy Act of 2005.

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