Vice President of Conservation
11/19/2003 -- Washington, D.C. -- The sweeping Energy Bill, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday and scheduled for consideration by the Senate today,contains provisions harmful to fish and wildlife conservation efforts across the nation. Specifically, Trout Unlimited opposes provisions in the “Oil and Gas” and “Hydropower” sections because of their adverse effects on trout and salmon habitat, and to the interests of fish and wildlife conservationists. We call on the Senate to eliminate or fix these provisions prior to final passage.
The bill contains numerous oil and gas leasing provisions that could diminish conservation measures on public lands for water resources, wildlife and fish habitat, and scenic landscapes. One provision would exempt the construction of facilities, pipelines, roads and other infrastructure necessary to develop oil and gas resources on public lands from the Clean Water Act. Another implies that energy development takes precedence over the other multiple uses of public lands by requiring the documentation of any actions that have a “significant adverse effect on the supply of domestic energy resources from Federal public lands.”
Also, the bill establishes new procedures that give hydropower dam owners preferential treatment over all other river stakeholders by allowing them to develop alternatives to the conditions prescribed by federal resource agencies, and to second-guess resource agencies’ decisions through a new “trial-type” hearing process. The most disturbing aspect of these new procedures is that they both are available only to dam owners.
Furthermore, at the 11th hour and without hearings or debate, an amendment was added to the bill which would provide funding “to permit energy generation and development,” including hydroelectric dams, “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” This provision presumably would override the Federal Power Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act, among others. We are alarmed that such a sweeping provision affecting the rivers of Alaska could be placed into this bill with no discussion or debate.
The ill-conceived effects of these provisions result in elevating energy development on public lands to a dominant use over fish and wildlife, and disenfranchising river stakeholders – fisheries conservationists, Tribes and others – from key hydropower decisions.
Energy development does not have to damage fish and wildlife and their habitat on public land, nor does it need to disenfranchise fisheries conservationists from key hydropower decision-making processes. Public lands and wild rivers are home to some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities in the nation.
TU has worked successfully with hydropower operators and private landowners on energy development and land management projects from California to Maine to strike a good balance between developing resources and conserving them. The bill considered by the Senate today undermines balanced resource conservation.
As evidenced by the last-minute insertion of the Alaska hydropower provisions, the bill can be modified even at this late date. We urge the Senate to take a moment for fish and wildlife today, and to fix or eliminate the harmful provisions in the bill.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.